Remember the episode of The Cosby Show when Claire Huxtable learned that her late uncle’s painting was being auctioned at an art show? The entire family was so invested, Rudy got overly excited and challenged a man across the aisle for a piece Cliff wanted. In the end, the family walked away with the piece called “Funeral Procession” by Ellis Wilson. 

We have a replica of that very piece in our home. My aunt purchased it from a local artist. 

Millennials, now 24 to 39, have an opportunity to approach art buying and collecting on the cusp of a renaissance especially here in Memphis. As the largest generation in the United States (over 56 million, according to the Pew Research Center), millennials are the fastest growing group of art buyers and collectors, with eight percent owning art in 2018 than previous years.  

“The majority of collectors are Baby Boomers,” art advisor Heather Flow told NewsArtNet in 2018. “They will soon transfer their wealth, and their collections, to their millennial kids,” and it will be the largest wealth transfer in world history, with estimates of the impending inheritance ranging up to $68 trillion.

And Memphis is included in that boom. 

“Memphis and every city has an arts scene that is defined by the people and experiences and history of place,” says Whitney Hardy, Executive Director and Founder of 3RDSPACE. Under Hardy’s leadership, 3RDSPACE’s mission is to bridge the gap between artists and community, creating a sustainable space for artists while building a community that invests in their creatives. 

As Memphis undergoes a revolution of art production, art buying has surfaced to the conversations of millennials and how they should start investing. In fact, the more investment in local art by individual and corporate buyers, the more art our local artists can produce that will contribute to our overall culture and beauty in the city. 

So how can millennials start investing and buying art? We asked Hardy, Art Advocate, Rachel Knox and Curatorial Curator, Lester Merriweather for their advice: 

Whitney Hardy, Executive Director and Founder of 3RDSPACE 

  1. Slow down to acknowledge and appreciate art. 
  2. Ask questions because that’s always okay. 
  3. An “any dollar amount” financial investment in what you genuinely love and relate to. This can be done through a donation to an organization like 3RDSPACE that is building community galleries around Memphis or a singular purchase. I want to break the notion that collecting art is just about what fits on a wall. Communities have abundant art collections (murals,sculptures, and even graffiti,) that is the voice of a place. You can invest in that! Businesses collect art that speaks to its workers and consumers whether through their company holiday card or conference tables. You can hire local artists. Public spaces like airports and river fronts collect art that brings people together. We can donate to them for art specific projects. We can buy art in the form of ceramics, fashion, or album covers. So many ways to invest in buying art that extends beyond your home. We just have to start with Step 1.
  4. 3RDSPACE is launching the inaugural Memphis Art + Design Week on October 3-10, 2020. MAD Week  is an annual exploration of art, design, and community. Local artists are encouraged to participate, and we leave space and opportunity for artists outside of Memphis to attend, play, be inspired. Memphis is such a welcoming place to do that.

Rachel Knox, Program Officer for the Thriving Arts and Culture portfolio at the Hyde Family Foundation

  1. Go where your budget sends you. Don’t feel as if you can’t afford art.  Artists who start out need support to grow their practices and often have lower prices than more established artists. So, start there!
  2. Go to places like the CLTV’s gallery, the CMPLX (Complex) or attend the 3RDSPACE annual art fair. The works are affordable, and most likely, you’ll end up with work you love, by artists who need the support. Plus, you never know which one of these talented individuals will blow up in the art world, and you’ve got one of their early works!–

Lester Merriweather, Curatorial Consultant 

  1. Take the time and research the artist and the work. Continue to utilize your own feelings about the work (considering you will be the one living with it)
  2. The reality is: if you’re doing it right, there is no “quickly” involved. Art is a very long game.
  3. Regularly support the programming at The CMPLX (especially after the opening receptions). 
  4. Understand that there are several different “art worlds,” meaning that there are several very different levels and entry points to collecting.
  5. Don’t be afraid to dive in on any level based on your own expendable income, but also understand that as you continuously educate yourself, you’ll constantly find more things of interest.
  6. Of course acquire “what you love, but understand that most Art with true investment value utilizes more subject matter to move you than attractiveness.
  7. Develop real relationships with artists and work with them directly. 

It’s just that simple. Art collecting doesn’t have to be hard and distant. In fact, it’s as simple as following some of your favorite artists on instagram and supporting their work and their networks. Engage with us. Tell us how you like to collect art in the city. 

Header Image Photo Credit: Talisha Ingram/Total Icon Photography for 3RDSPACE

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