“The worldwide community of collectors is changing, driven by the Internet” – AXA Art Collectors Report

AXA Art recently published the results of its 2013 international survey of art collectors as Collecting in the Digital Age available for download from the AXA Art website. The report’s foreword by Dr. Ulrich Guntram, CEO AXA ART Group, describes their motivation for carrying out the survey:

We felt at home within the collectors’ community – until the Internet started to change their habits. We became curious and conducted several dozen long, face-to-face interviews with collectors. The issues which emerged from these dialogues – whilst still hypothetical – were used as the basis for a worldwide online survey. It became evident that the worldwide community of collectors is changing, and that such change is partly driven by the Internet.

Among the report’s findings are:

  • Close to half of collectors are self-employed or entrepreneurs, whereas only 25% are employees
  • Collectors “often live in childless relationships”
  • Paintings are at the top of the popularity list of collectables while young collectors prefer new works of art
  • “Gut instinct” is the main collecting strategy

In terms of how the internet has changed the respondents’ approach to art collecting, there is a mixed response:

The Internet still seems to play a secondary role as an art marketplace. Almost all collectors – 95% of respondents – utilize the web as a means of information and communication. Primarily, they employ it for researching specific art objects and for the initial approach before a purchase. 34% of respondents have already bought artworks via online platforms as well. But 42% of the collectors in our sample refuse such online purchases as a matter of principle; they ”could not see themselves doing this“.

The report concludes with a ‘typology of collectors’:

  1. Art Aficionados (of whom 60% have bought collectables online)
  2. Traditionalists (50% have bought online but “find it important to physically view an item”)
  3. Investors (66% buy artworks “in isolated instances, many times or [almost] always” online.)
  4. Hybrid collectors

Collecting in the Digital Age was compiled from 972 responses to an online survey during the period January 28 to February 25, 2013 principally in United States, Germany, France, United Kingdom and Switzerland. AXA acknowledges the possibility of self-selection bias in the results, but describes them nonetheless as “remarkable.” The report does make intriguing reading (unfairly perhaps, more entertaining than one would expect from an insurance company). Apart from its specific findings, if the survey is repeated regularly into the future, it could serve as a valuable benchmark of trends for measuring the influence of the internet on the art market.

Download the full report: Collecting in the Digital Age – International Collectors Survey by AXA ART (PDF)

Read More