Never before have more people been engaged with art. While each collector is guided by a unique set of decision-making factors when acquiring works, several key themes and demographic variances stand out.
1. Core buying motivations
Collectors were asked to rank the main reasons they purchase art, as well as the factors that motivate their decisions about individual artworks.
Aesthetics and a desire to live with art
Online art buyers overwhelmingly purchase art in order to live with it. Seventy-one percent of collectors surveyed said they buy art to decorate their home. Even for investment-minded collectors, this was the most frequently cited driver to buy art. The motivation here appears to be deeply personal in its origins: 67% of collectors—the second-largest group—reported buying art to provide a source of inspiration in their daily lives.
Similarly, when asked about the biggest factors to consider when making a purchase, collectors reported aesthetics as the most important, cited by 78% of respondents—three times the number that cited an artwork’s potential to increase in value as a key motivating factor.
Consistent with online art collectors’ relatively modest average budgets, affordability was the second most frequently cited factor that influences buying. This finding remains consistent across all age ranges besides 45–55 (when budgets are also highest), and all but the two highest and three lowest segments of net worth (above $5 million and below $10,000).
3. Trends and art-world validation
Contrary to what might be inferred from large swings in the value of certain types of art (such as the recent move towards figurative painting), trends were the least frequently cited factor driving online art collectors, at just 9% of respondents. This is consistent with the previously mentioned propensity among the majority of collectors to focus on aesthetics and individual taste when buying.
4. Gender differences
Survey respondents who identified as male or female showed variance in their motivations for buying art and in their purchasing criteria.
5. Art as an investment
Online collectors are 37% more likely to view art as an investment than collectors who have not purchased art online in the past. Investment was ranked sixth among the most important factors for buying art among online art buyers. However, while 35% of respondents said they buy art as an investment, only 26% said they evaluate individual works based on their likelihood to gain value.
“I collect what I can afford, and that I think I can resell at some point,” said one collector who spends $5,000–$9,999 on art annually. “I think of it as my savings account on my wall. It should hold its value.”
6. Wealth and budget
A collector’s net worth is also strongly correlated with their propensity to view art through an investment lens. Online collectors with a net worth above $10 million were the most likely to cite this as a motivating factor, at 52% of all respondents, while collectors with a net worth between $5 million and $10 million came in second, at 49%. By comparison, on average, 27% of collectors with a net worth less than $100,000 reported investment as a major driving factor behind their collecting.