WHY AREN’T PEOPLE BUYING OUR ARTWORK?

It may not be what you think…

(3 minute read)

I spent most of the holidays visiting my daughter and her spouse on the east coast. We always have interesting conversations (in a good way) and this time was no exception.

One topic that came up was, why don’t millennials buy art? The list of reasons she gave was astonishing, and all of them made perfect sense. (Spoiler alert: Millennials DO buy art. Maybe just not OUR art.)

And there are lots of reasons why.

One of my New Year’s Intention (I’m giving up on “resolutions”) is to write shorter more articles in series, breaking up a topic into a series of points. We’ll see how long that lasts, because my style is my own, and I’m not ashamed of that. You either have five or six minutes to enjoy my journey to clarity, or you don’t.

Still, this topic is worth expanding upon, and I’d like you to participate.

In the comments below, please list your opinion about why people—but especially millennials, defined as younger adults from who were born between 1981-1996 (age 23 to 38 in 2019) are not buying our work. I’ll answer as many as I can, and share the reasons I’ve discovered, in columns to come.

Do you believe they don’t appreciate “real art” over something found at Target? Share it in the comments!

And a small request: Ask with an open heart, and a willingness to expand your understanding. That way, we can all move forward with insights that could help us all.

Also, keep your heart protected, because some of the insights will be hard to hear. None of them are directed to any of us personally. My intention is not to make anyone feel bad, but to increase our understanding of the reality of a lot of millennials today, and having compassion for the straits many of them are in. (#NotAllMillennials  etc.)

So as not to keep your hanging (too much), I share one reason (out of many) why the market for my own more expensive work has fallen off:

Most of people who originally collected my bigger, more expensive work were older than I, and several have already died. Or they’re still here, but they’ve downsized their home, and have no more room for more art.

We’ve experienced this ourselves. Moving from New Hampshire to California did this to us. We’ve already had to move to a new rental in the five years we’ve been here, and each new home has been smaller than the one we had before it. We’ve gone from a 2,500+sf home to 980sf. (We’re not retired, as one reader inquired, that’s all we can afford here in California. Plus we’re renting, AND we own three cats and a dog, so we’re lucky we even found a place to rent. Ouch!)

I simply have no more wall space for new art. There isn’t room for half the art I already own!

Hold this in your heart: The deepest, most powerful reason for making our art is that it gets us to our highest, best place in the world. It heals us.

Everything else is gravy.

Another spoiler alert: Your homework, should you choose to accept it, is to check out this book preview titled KIDS THESE DAYS by Malcom Harris. If nothing else, it will help explain “OK Boomer”.

My favorite? People my age constantly complain that “young people today” are on their phones all the time. Do you know what they’re doing?

They are reading. Articles. Columns. News. Letters, long (blog posts or Facebook posts) and short (texts and other instant messaging from friends and family.) Listening to music. Watching videos and movies. Doing research.

You know what tech innovations older people have complained about for the last three thousand years? Claiming that these “new inventions” are destroying human society?

Books. Newspapers. Radio. Hi-fi. Equality for women, people of color, people of “questionable” or “unacceptable” gender. Resentment against Italian and Irish immigrants. Celebrating Christmas with gift-giving and festive trees. Dancing. Moving pictures (aka “movies”.) Umbrellas and chess.

Enough! Post your “reasons why millennials don’t buy art” below, and check in next week.

As always, if you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it. And if someone sent you this article and you liked it, you can sign up for more articles at Fine Art Views or more from me at my blog LuannUdell.wordpress.com.

 

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

17 thoughts on “WHY AREN’T PEOPLE BUYING OUR ARTWORK?”

  1. Someone mentioned something to me the other day which made a lot of sense. I was speaking about how I don’t seem to sell much jewelry to younger folks these days. They brought up that a lot of millennials are investing in tattoos rather than jewelry and other adornment. It’s the most personalized and meaningful art for them and isn’t perceived as “stuff”.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ll be writing up thoughts on the comments, and out of 83 total, you are only the second person to mention tattoos. So good on you! My daughter has tattoos, and I have one in solidarity with her about a painful event in her life, and she forgot to mention them, too! Stay tuned, and thank you for your comment.

      Like

  2. Ok my art is nothing traditional. It varies from
    Cutesy to off the chart challenges. People (all) seem
    To like that I think
    Outside the box. Smalls usually sell
    Better than large. Fabric postcards to small framed pieces. But I tried something new 7 months ago. 8 x 10
    Inch fabric art paintings matted to 11 x 14 inch. Presented professionally priced at $80 and up. My husband was not sure about it. But I have sold many over 12 and had 4 …4? Arts councils and galleries request my work for their spaces. Total plus. Taking risks. You have to but keep your quality and your soul as part of it. If you want to see my work check Fairy Godmother Arts on Facebook

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m delighted you’ve found work that aligns with your heart and aesthetic, and also attracts a new and appreciative audience. Good on you, and thanks for sharing your insights!

      Like

  3. I just read an article about Silicon Valley millennials. They work 16 hour days to succeed. And their culture is to reward themselves with travel to far off places. So if you only have 8 hours a day away from the office, sleep, and then jet off to some exotic land, you are not spending much time at home. So why would you buy art if you are never going to see it?

    That leaves us with openings in wearable art and art for the workspace, if any. My son in law, a telecom engineer, no longer has his own desk. He has a locker and when he is not working from home, can take his personal items from his locker to his desk for the day. He tells me that IBM has been doing this for 20 years with their people. So, it seems to me that wearable art that you can put on and forget, i.e., that won’t distract you or need to be adjusted, and art for the workplace might be marketable. (My Etsy shop, SusanDolphinDelaney, is filled with #JewelryForBusyWomen, jewelry that is designed to be put on in the morning; jewelry that will never distract.)

    As for travel, I, myself, have a collection of small art pieces that I have made FOR MY SUITCASE, to beautify and personalize my hotel room when I travel. I suppose a person could make art for travel, which could double as art you keep in your locker for your desk du jour.

    Luann’s customers sometimes store their earrings in special “shadow boxes” (no glass), as sculpture. Her earrings could be provided in a box so that the earrings could be displayed at home, at work on the desk du jour or on the bureau when traveling.

    That’s my story, and I am sticking to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And these are the millennials with a good income! With no ‘space of their own’ at work?? Fascinating insights… I just saw your pics of your “traveling art collection”, and they are lovely.

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  4. Ian not sure about millennials as I am not around many. I can talk to my buying experience. I make art and love to do so. It is my heart and my healing. I started buying art in a limited amount in my late 30s and 40s. My income made it so I could start. I did buy some before that bunt very little. In my late 40s to about 60 my income increased and I was able to collect more art. I also have many Artist friends I collect from. Now at 68 my income is seriously limited due to retirement and a couple of health issues. I can’t buy much art. Sometimes I do swaps or my art friends do Christmas homemade gifts. So it is definitely a bell curve. I don’t have super expensive art but a few pieces were. I love art but didn’t realize it and that I was collecting till my 40s. Now if I can I buy to support fellow artists. Art is my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Denise, I’m impressed that you sussed out the conditions for buying art–budget!–which affects ALL ages, instead of just millennials. Most of my art has been acquired by swaps, too, and I don’t have room for that any longer, either. Thank you for your thoughts today, tune in in the weeks ahead for more insights about our newest art audience.

      Like

  5. Hi, Luann, Guess I’m the first one to reply. These are random ideas and comments on things I’ve seen in the past couple of years of making and selling jewellery. I used to do “fine art” portraits, but they were weirder’n shit and waaaaay before their time, and while I did sell them here and in Italy of all places, it wasn’t enough to live on. Fifteen years ago I switched to jewellery-making because I was broke, disabled, and I really like to eat. I’m still broke and disabled, but since I sell at a farmers market, I eat really well now.

    I’m almost 68 and I’ve been drawing and painting since I was 2 and learned “artist” was the word for what I liked to do. I’ve done and still do everything, learn new techniques and forms — and I meet and talk to people ***of all ages*** who also are learning and doing even more different forms of art that I’ve never even heard of. Poke around the Internet long enough and walk along some of the “alternate” streets and you’ll stumble across their websites and galleries. It’s an eye-opener.

    These are not people selling in mainstream art galleries or juried shows. They sell online on little niche sites and have their own juried shows. The last one I went to (I didn’t get in. Ageism? I dunno!) to look around was the Bazaar of the Bizarre. Imagine what that was like. You probably couldn’t. Even my eyebrows hit the ceiling a couple of times. Was it “good” art? From a purely technical point, a lot of the time no. But doesn’t matter. These kids (and they were all under 30 and hopelessly cool) were making drawings, paintings, sculptures, books, graphic novels, cards, jewellery, clothing, tattooing, terrariums, oils, soaps, unguents, tarot decks and they were selling these things to their peers. Skulls were a reeeeally big theme at this show.

    To answer the question, yes, millennials are making, selling and buying their own art. However, they’re not buying most of our art because the subject matter itself is irrelevant to them: they’re buying from their peers. I get “adults” tsk-tsking if not actually sneering at my market jewellery table — I’m older than they are yet I give them the old eye-roll like the perennial tweenager I still am at heart — but the really little kids, the tweens, teens, 20 and 30-somethings love me and my stuff. Seems to skip a few decades, and then I get the late 50 and 60-plus year-olds who say, “To hell with what my friends will say. I LOVE THIS, and I’m buying it.”

    Where I now shine is at the big shows I do. I get young guys who say my table is the best they’ve seen anywhere. I get young women who tell me they’ve looked at my stuff for a couple of shows, gone away and looked at other stuff, and now they’re coming back to me and saying I have the best curated, best quality and best selection of beads and interesting jewellery that I make. As they get older and smarter, they realise that you have to pay for quality.

    I’ve noticed over the years that there’s a turnover in my jewellery customers every 4 or 5 years as they enter new life stages, so I have to change, too, to attract and develop new generations of potential customers. I can’t sit here and stagnate. I have to change to stay “relevant” because aging out of buying jewellery (or anything) is real.

    Barbara MacDougall
    http://www.artefaccio.blogspot.com
    deviantart.com/artefaccio
    facebook.com/artefaccio
    facebook.com/chakraluscious

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara, you must have peeked into my future articles on this topic! You are spot-on how artmaking and marketing are working now. I especially appreciate that you don’t “judge” anyone by whether they buy your work or not. Instead, you see that there are new aesthetics, more artists than ever, and people who simply like your work, or don’t. Keep up the good work!

      Like

  6. When I worked as a drafter (25 years, first in civil/structural engineering, then the last 16 for a surveyor), I had money to spend but little time to make art. Then I quit that job and tried making and selling art and jewelry. Now I’ve got time, but very little money.

    But back in the day, I delighted in going to bead shows, and would bring along my young adult daughter. If she really expressed interest in something, I would get it for her.

    But then she said something I hadn’t been thinking about. “Mom, you know, these shows aren’t nearly as much fun for someone who doesn’t have any money.”

    With good jobs hard to find, and housing expenses out of sight, many young people just don’t have much discretionary spending money. I have to say that my daughter has done a much better job than I did, at deciding on a few key purchases and passing up the rest of what’s tempting!

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  7. I would think the ‘Marie Kondo’ing going on now would have an influence too. The ‘less is more’ mindset. And as has been said already, the preferences for experiences over ‘stuff’ is real, and is being pitched by therapists. The ‘Tiny House’ esthetic fits that, too. I also suspect there is are more people now between those who don’t have money for anything beyond the necessities, and those that have more money than they can even spend, making the market for art either very very inexpensive things, or ‘if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it.’

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  8. I am now 40 with friends older and younger than me. I actually see a growing desire to own something special that speaks to one, with a story behind. And they often don’t judge by the materials or something similar but rather only if they love it. But (and this is also true for me) without the funds, with unsecured jobs and uncertain financial stability, with rented apartments… Most of the time the inner voice says no. I once had a young student looking at my jewelry and falling in love with two pairs. It was clear she couldn’t afford either and was sad but resigned to it (and especially the younger ones with no money are the ones never asking for a discount, this is something mostly older and wealthier people do). She came back later that day, because she couldn’t get them out of her head and wanted to get one pair at least. In the end I called her back and gave her the second one as a gift. at that time in my life I was selling at a lower price point, so it was not so much of a deal like it sounds. Still, I love all my work and she gave me the gift of feeling connected to my work. I have a lot of friends whose wishes for presents are actually things I made and also the buy from me for their own family and friends. Having said all that, I still also see how a lot of the “classical” market and fares are falling. I also decided to not sell there anymore about a year ago and am not sure how I will go on in the future (I have a day job so I am not dependent on selling my work). I realized that I also don’t enjoy going there as a visitor anymore. Because most markets and shows are simply boring. There are too many that only combine ready-made components or even resellers and even worse, too much is generic and even though handmade, not original. There are sometimes cool alternatives or small stores selling only after their own taste but they are rare. So it may also be a problem to connect.

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  9. I am from England I have a daughter of 35 who is an artist and self published author, so I am around young people quite a lot, my daughter has tattoos her friends the same she also designs tattoos. I make jewellery and felt neither of which do very well at present but my clients have always been older people many have died and as you said Luann downsized no longer have the money to spend; I do still sell to some but strangely I find earrings sell to younger people or a charm on a chain where a necklace won’t, many also don’t have much money. I sell nothing locally as I live in a depressed area in the country by the coast, I used to sell a lot to the US and Europe though and I love making elaborate necklaces so I have many here at home all good for inspiration.
    My daughter finds the same with her art work as she does fantasy art young people love it but can’t afford to buy so she has to keep the price down.
    I am not sure if hand crafted items are valued very highly among the young to be honest but I know some that do, they just can’t afford to buy that special piece they love. But there are many more who want to spend their wages on new technology a new phone or game etc, etc.

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  10. Appreciation for art comes from education. Most of them had very little art exposure, starting at home, then almost zero at school. It includes fine art, music, ethnic art, historical art and fine crafts. Plus many of them never had a “hobby”, meaning they had no hands-on experiences to appreciate the time, skill and passion it takes to create. In many other cultures everyday life is infused with art, people grow up with music or visuals of their ancestors, sometimes even tactile art such as old architecture, along with current art styles.

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