Impulsive Millennial Buyers are Breathing Life into the Pandemic Art Market

According to the chairman of Sotheby's fine art division, millennial buyers rarely ask to see condition reports.

Auctioneer Oliver Barker at Sotheby’s Rembrandt to Richter sale, July 28th 2020. Sotheby's

In the past calendar year, the art market has experienced an industry-wide accelerant that can be indisputably attributed to the ongoing pandemic, but which may have independently occurred within a few more years: pretty much every sale takes place online, and buyers have revealed themselves to be extremely willing to purchase fine art items without seeing them first in person. Last September, a UBS Study indicated that 60 percent of young millennial art collectors felt optimistic about how the art market will bounce back and continue to perform, and now, a new report from the Wall Street Journal is laying out the specifics of how millennials breathed life into the fluctuating luxury goods industry during a catastrophic 2020.

First of all, millennials have made it clear that they’re willing to buy significant items online without ever having seen them in person, whether these items happen to be Wayfair couches or extremely expensive works of fine art. According to the Wall Street Journal, luxury items like handbags, various types of alcohol and watches enjoyed sales boosts in 2020 thanks to millennial buyers, and according to Christie’s, 92% of the handbags they offered for sale in the past year managed to find buyers.

Additionally, Sotheby’s informed WSJ that its new influx of collectors under 40, many of whom belong to the technology industry, were comfortable bidding by app and rarely request condition reports for the things they end up buying. Suzanne Gyorgy, the leader of Citi Private Bank’s art advisory team, told the Wall Street Journal that this type of impulsivity and willingness to make big purchases is great for the art market, but should be tempered among the purchasers themselves. “Buying art is easier than selling it, and that can be a painful lesson to learn,” Gyorgy said.

In short, bulk sales of luxury fashion items can be a worthwhile buoy for huge auction houses looking to outlast an ongoing global crisis, but millennial buyers should be warned: it may be a while before anyone else in the real world sees that rare Hermès handbag. Impulsive Millennial Buyers are Breathing Life into the Pandemic Art Market