December 9, 2022 | OPINION | By Zoraiz Zafar | Photo provided by author
Individuals born around the turn of the millennium are not known to be very enthusiastic about the monetization of art. A collection of global climate activists, comprised mostly of young people, made international headlines a few weeks ago when multiple prestigious art galleries were subjected to acts of vandalism in an attempt to bring attention to the ongoing climate crisis. However, having recently completed a venture grant in Los Angeles studying the feasibility of art as an asset, I believe that there are more productive ways through which the youth can engage with the art market.
Over Fall Break, Saigopal Rangaraj ’23 and I traveled to one of North America’s major hubs of the art market, Los Angeles, to undertake our project titled “Art as an Investment? The Strengths and Weaknesses of Art to Build Wealth.” We attended multiple art auctions and visited various art galleries, interviewing people relevant to the art market as we went along.
One takeaway that stood out was the under-involvement of young people in the art market. As we were attending an art auction for California Art hosted by Bonham’s, we noticed that most of the artworks up for sale included works of boomers and Gen Xers but millennials, or Gen Z for that matter, were hardly represented.
“Young people see the art market as public enemy number one, instead of recognizing the financial benefits they stand to gain from it,” said one auction attendee when asked about the lack of involvement of the youth in the art market.
Personally, I would thoroughly echo the sentiment expressed by the attendee. According to the Winner’s Curse, bidders always tend to overvalue items being auctioned as they are being influenced by factors other than the intrinsic or true value of the item. Therefore, artists stand to benefit financially from partaking in the art market, especially young artists seeking a breakthrough.
And it is not just the monetary gain that the youth is foregoing by not participating in the art market; it is also the chance to portray the voices of young people. As we saw at the Museum of Contemporary Art, art is also a means to express societal and generational views.
“The less young people participate in the art market, the less the rest of us will know of their views,” lamented one attendee at the MOCA. In my view, this statement may be unfortunate but that does not make it any less true.
Now, how could young people participate in the art market? Well, lucky for us, the solution, like most solutions out there in this day and age, is digital. Masterworks, for example, is an online platform where users can buy shares of renowned artworks. These high-value artworks may be improbable to buy by oneself but, as a conglomerate, they act as a profitable and low-risk investment.
Moreover, for those interested in selling their artwork, one must start to look away from platforms like Amazon and eBay where artworks are grossly undervalued simply due to the principles of supply and demand. Instead, aspiring artists should look to get their art put up for sale through high-end auction houses, such as Bonham’s and Christie’s, where the wealthy clientele is much more likely to overpay for the artworks.
All in all, our generation needs to take the first step in becoming more active in the art market, both for monetary and social benefits. Smearing cake on the Mona Lisa is not going to help anyone, but having a painting put up beside it made by someone from our generation would make a world of difference.