Core buying motivations
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
A passion for artists and their stories
Collectors indicated that a work’s aesthetic appeal is frequently the gateway to a deeper exploration of the artist and their career. Among active art buyers identified in the survey, only approximately 17% reported buying art WITHOUT significant consideration for the works’ content or the artist’s background or career trajectory. While both factors ranked highly, collectors seem to be relatively more motivated by the subject matter and story behind the individual work (58% of respondents) than they are by the artist’s story and background (43% of respondents).
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)
Additionally, interviews demonstrated a propensity among collectors to think of affordability not only in terms of their current budget, but also how well priced an artwork is relative to what they think is fair, based on the current market. Collectors expressed demand for more data to inform this estimation: “I don’t have a perfect idea if I’m getting a great deal,” said another collector, “but I know where my limit is, and I’m willing to stop.”
Women were 24% more likely than men to report being motivated by wanting to support artists, and 35% more likely to be motivated by artist friends. While decorating and inspiration were key factors for all respondents, women were marginally but still significantly more likely to cite these as motivating factors, responding at 9% and 14% higher rates, respectively.
Meanwhile, men were 39% more likely to say that they buy art as an investment. Men were 29% more likely to say they are buying to build a collection, and over 53% more likely to say they viewed themselves as collectors.
However, women were 10% more likely to say that they belonged to a social circle of collectors who regularly talk about art.
There were also significant differences in how male or female-identifying respondents had transacted in the past. Men were 53% more likely than women to have bought art at auction, 33% more likely to have purchased through an art advisor, and 20% more likely to have purchased art online.