Building the Next Generation of Collectors

By Grant, Daniel | Sculpture, April 2016 | Go to article overview

Building the Next Generation of Collectors


Grant, Daniel, Sculpture


In many communities, newcomers join a church, or PTA if they have children, as a way of meeting people with common interests. Latania McKenzie, an IT manager, and her partner Jonelle Shields, a healthcare administrator, both joined the Young Professionals group of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. The group is part social-"a party scene at times," Shields says-and part educational, which is more their interest since they aren't looking for dates; they do, however, collect work by local artists and are interested in having more of a role at the museum. Shields "would like to be a board member one day."

Through the museum group, they have met art dealers and artists, taken part in guided gallery visits and have listened to talks by High Museum curators about art, as well as by board members about the mission and collecting goals of the museum. Shields noted that the museum appears to be "grooming" them to take the next step-joining an affiliate group called Art Partners, which also offers a number of social events but has more lectures and visits to galleries, museums, and artists' studios.

A growing number of museums around the country have established beginning patron and collector groups that mix the social and the educational. The Museum of Modern Art, for instance, has its Junior Associates, while the Guggen - heim has a Young Collectors Council and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, has its Curators' Council. There is the Young Collectors at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York; the Con - temporary Art Council at the Brooklyn Museum; the Evening Associates at the Art Institute of Chicago; the Avant Garde at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Contemporaries at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine; the Young Collectors Coun cil at the Perez Art Mus - eum in Miami; the Apollo Cir - cle at the Metropolitan Mus eum; and Whitney Contem poraries at the Whitney Museum. It is difficult to find an art museum that doesn't have a similar group. Members of the groups are cultivated by the museums. Karaugh Brown, senior manager for membership and patrons at the Guggenheim, notes that curators lead exhibition tours for the Young Collec - tors Council, as well as visits to artists' studios and the private collections of museum patrons, so that members gain an "understanding of what's in our collection and what's of interest to us." The studio tours especially "connect them with the artists who are important to us."

Museums are not the only ones eyeing younger collectors. Many art fairs arrange special presentations for museum collector groups, which involve private off-hour tours of gallery booth exhibitions and panel discussions of trends in the art market. "We are aiming for the younger demographic," explains Donna Davies, director of art fairs for the Kennesaw, Georgiabased Urban Expositions, which owns and operates ArtAspen, ArtHamptons, Houston Fine Art Fair, Palm Springs Fine Art Fair, and SOFA Chicago. "We don't track sales at art fairs, but gallerist feedback indicates that lectures typically lead to sales and meeting new clients." The Armory Show, an art fair held annually in New York City in late winter, has a VIP program for members of museum groups, including private tours of artists' studios and collectors' homes, as well as panel discussions on "identifying an emerging artist, how to tell the difference between good and bad art, and understanding the international art market," says Irene Kim, who is in charge of the VIP program. Additionally, Sotheby's Preferred, a division of the auction house that works exclusively with museums to sell de-accessioned artworks, arranges private purchases for them, and offers appraisals of objects in their permanent collections, provides speakers on the buying and selling of art and even stages mock auctions for collector groups.

These museum groups can be quite popular, and some have hundreds of members. Edward J. Gargiulo, director of asset management at the New Yorkbased High Brook Investors and chair of the Museum of Modern Art's Junior Associates until he relocated in 2015 to Los Angeles ("I'm considering which museums here to join"), said that when invitations to limited-seating events are emailed, "you need to be close to your computer when the invite is issued so you can respond in time. …

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