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Look who’s buying art now – by Robert Genn

Look who's buying art now
by Robert Genn

Visiting last night with one of my really wealthy friends and wandering once more among his many art acquisitions, including a few I'd not seen before, I was once more catching the drift of his habits. He insisted on telling me how much he'd paid for this and that. They seemed big prices for big mediocrity from big names. That's only my opinion--apart from his bad art, he's got some of mine too, so I didn't say a word. He also told me he'd flipped a few, "even in this bad market."

My friend fits the profile of many collectors. They're in it for the game, the name and the fame. Investment is a factor. As well, many collected works are bequeathed to museums where a tax receipt gives year-end relief to the wealthy donor. For some reason, all of my collector friends who fit this profile are men.

Recent studies are showing a sea change in earning power and discretionary spending. In the USA, among couples where both partners work, 40% of the women now earn more than the men. The stats on university attendance are also telling. Sixty percent of students enrolled in higher education are now women. If present trends continue, in twenty-five years women will outnumber men in medicine and law. Physics, engineering and professorships will not be far behind. In studies of families where the male still maintained a higher income than his spouse, discretionary spending decisions are nearly equal. On the other hand, in families where the wife's income is higher, it's the female who makes most of the big decisions. The persistent scenario, frightening to some of the blokes, is that CEO mom goes shopping after work while dad is home feeding crackers to the kids and watching Barney.

And what particular art are these rich gals buying? In my observation, they're not so much interested in the game, name or fame. In the last few years I've not heard one single active female art buyer utter the word "investment." They're more interested in connection, shared experience, life enhancement, tailored quality, nest-and-nurture, soul-polishing, and yes, d├ęcor and colour-coordination. Funnily, while women do more measuring than men, big size is not so important. I would be really interested in what gallery owners have to say about this, but women seem often to be making art decisions based on lofty ideals, genuine emotions and high sensibilities. Is it that women have better values than men? More imagination? Better taste? More sense? Or is it just less testosterone?

Best regards,


PS: "Women are asking what privileges their own breadwinning buys." (Liza Mundy)

Esoterica: In what I call FABE (the Female Art Buying Explosion), women have less hesitancy in collecting women artists. This may be partly because female-run and female-owned galleries have risen dramatically. In the years I've been painting, the percentage of female artists in galleries has slowly crept up. A few galleries now represent more women than men. Considering female artists outnumber male artists 80/20, there is still a way to go.


Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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