3 Trends Influencing the Art of Fine Art Collecting

Dec 12, 2019

By: Jeff Minett, Senior Vice President, Huntington T. Block, a division of Aon

Collecting art is arguably an art in and of itself – one that can be challenging for dealers, appraisers and others in the industry who carefully monitor trends, economic indicators, media, fashion, style and politics. We have seen a significant shift in what collectors find desirable. Tastes change. Influencers are abundant. 

By many, art is considered a smart investment, similar to real estate. Values tend to appreciate over time. When the economy is robust, the competition to obtain a desirable artwork is sometimes fierce as we have seen play out in exciting public auctions and sales records reported from art fairs such as Art Dealers Association of America’s The Art Show, Art Basel Miami Beach, Frieze London & Frieze Masters, TEFAF Maastricht, The Armory Show and others. 

Most collectors tend to buy what they like. Others purchase as an asset class. And many collectors are both. New collectors tend to utilize the services of others to assist them with their art purchases.  Private and commercial art dealers, art advisors, auction house representatives, private banks, financial and insurance institutions offer clients deep expertise and critical networks that connect collectors to art and artists to collectors. 

With an ever-changing global economy, art is now more accessible to new audiences in new ways; at Huntington T. Block, we’re seeing three trends influencing the art of collecting.

Changing of Demographics & Taste

The approach of how art has historically been collected is shifting dramatically. Millennials, the newest generation of collectors, have broken the mold. New collectors prefer to attend art fairs over auctions, are more comfortable with reviewing and transacting art purchases on-line, become members to exclusive social clubs with others who are like them and are connected in some way to art, culture, and performance. Many engage art advisors, independent consultants and subject matter experts from galleries and auction houses who provide art education, curatorial vision, and networks that connect them to the art they want and desire.  This personalized experience is trending. The consultant becomes their curator, opens doors that enable access to pieces they want and over time develops an exciting collection that is customized to the collector’s taste and style. 

Broadening of Borders

Not too long ago, if a collector wanted to purchase a piece, they would usually go to a gallery in New York City, London, or Paris. Today the world is more accessible, international travel is commonplace and the internet opened lanes to connect collectors and their preferences to sellers. Technology enabled collectors to find select works of art online through a seamless transactional experience culminating with the new artwork shipped to their doorstep.

Making works accessible on a global platform, informs a collector about art fairs, exhibitions and auction happenings anywhere in the world. They can learn of an auction happening in Rome and be on a flight to purchase a piece for themselves. As a result of a global stage, we are seeing emerging markets in Asia. China is the new frontier, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai have become significant centers for art and culture. Blue-chip galleries have opened commercial galleries, salons and green rooms to connect clients with important Asian art and artists. Art Fair organizers have established annual shows that bring international dealers to Asia where eastern and western culture, art and collectors meld. 

The Art Fair Season

Art Fairs usually occur in the Fall and Spring seasons each year. Major art fairs, such as the Armory Show and ADAA Art Show held in NYC and Art Basel, in Miami, Frieze in London, or Art Basel in Maastricht are the stalwarts and anchor the season. These shows continue to be strong, well attended, and are important for any serious collector, seller and influencer. 

Art Fairs become economic generators for the host city where special events, pop-ups, performances, site-specific installations, corporate sponsorships, and VIP invite-only parties span well beyond the venue’s walls. And many of the other art fairs that coincide with the anchor fair have become must-sees and successful in their own right like Pulse Art Fair and The Affordable Art Fair.  

Insuring clients who are avid collectors bring unique challenges. Arranging insurance coverage that will respond to physical loss or damage to fine art property and make your client whole again is paramount. Understanding trends, the myriad of available transaction opportunities, and networks that connect collectors to art has become more complex and stretches beyond traditional borders. 

Your client may travel to Beijing, Miami, Dubai or London to make their next purchase. And that new work will need to be covered as soon as title transfers, while in transit and at any other location along its way until it reaches your client’s doorstep. If the client already has a policy in place that covers fine art property, make sure that it’s all risk, on a wall to wall basis, provides blanket, worldwide coverage and has very few exclusions and placed with an agency that specializes in insuring art and special collections. 

Jeff Minett is a Senior Vice President at Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency, Inc., a division of Aon, the world’s premier insurance broker. With more than 1,200 museums, 800 art galleries, and some of the largest universities and Fortune 500 companies’ art collections insured, HTB is the world’s leading provider of insurance to the fine art community.

This article is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide individualized business, insurance or legal advice.  You should discuss your individual circumstances thoroughly with your legal and other advisors before taking any action regarding the subject matter of this article. Only the relevant insurance policy provides actual terms, coverages, amounts, conditions, and exclusions for an insured.