In this final installment of our ‘trends in contemporary art’ series, we look at how collectors are adapting to the era of information technology and increased interconnection by making use of new information avenues, technological advancements and private museums. 

India Art Fair, one of the first Asian art fairs to make collector education a primary goal.


Other posts in this four-part series

Part 1: read part one here.

Part 2: read part two here.

Part 3: read part three here.

Part 4: read part four here.


New information avenues for collectors

New communication touch points for collectors are driving changes in the way art is bought and sold. At the recent India Art Fair, fair founder Neha Kirpal organised a Collector’s Circle to provide information and consultation to buyers unfamiliar with the international contemporary art market. Art fairs not only sell art, they promote it, introducing upcoming artists to potential customers who contact galleries once the fairs wrap up.

Several collecting forums have also sprung up to compensate for a growing information gap in the Asian contemporary art world. The ArtInsight series, held in partnership with market research firm ArtTactic, is a group lectures on a variety of topics related to art collection. Forums that focus exclusively on the collection of Asian art have even popped up, such as successful but now defunct Asia Art Forum, and a conference for collectors of Chinese contemporary art held at the Songzhuang art festival in 2009.

Art professionals gather at the First Annual Conference of Collectors of Chinese Contemporary Art, 2009.

A final point of contact for collectors is the artists themselves. The traditional relationship between artists, dealers and collectors is unravelling. With the growth in individual branding and social media outreach, artists are now able to reach collectors directly and vice-versa. In 2007, hedge fund billionaire Mike Platt and art dealer Joe La Placa formed All Visual Arts, a venture that provides artists with advances to produce commercial works. Their system of direct commissions amounts to a new patronage structure. In the future, artists may work more closely with collectors, who in turn can use artists as a springboard to further networking and art education opportunities.

New technology revolutionises art world

Innovations in electronic media are allowing the public truly immersive encounters with artwork. In his recent TED talk, Mike Matas detailed a new iPad application in a digital format which might point to the multimedia future of the art catalogue. Galleries have been quick to adopt these kinds of formats to showcase high-resolution images of their collections, and provide customers with easily accessed multimedia background information on their artists and exhibitions.

Other ground-breaking resources include, which provides collectors with recommendations for new artists using data from the Arts Genome Project, and Collectrium, an app that provides information about an artist using a single image, and can digitally catalogue collections. In the future, collectors may even be able to do on-the-spot price comparisons, with the advent of comprehensive online art market databases like ArtPrice facilitating the development of this buyer’s tool. Indeed, Collectrium already has competition from smartphone applications that can link images to relevant information on the Web.

Larry Gagosian and Dasha Zhukova, two major art collectors involved in the formation of

Some new technological models seek to revolutionise buying entirely. The VIP Art Fair is one example, although though it raised eyebrows when it débuted in 2011.

Private museums: will they last?

Private museums are also on the rise in Asia. In December 2011, we reported on collector Ramin Salsali’s Salsali Private Museum, which opened in Al Quoz, Dubai, on 13 November 2011. Salsali uses the venue to bring his private collection to the public, as well as provide a meeting place for collectors of contemporary art. The eccentric Australian collector David Walsh opened the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart, Tasmania, in January 2011, and, in India, private museums are popping up to fill the hole left by a culturally ambivalent government. China, too, is a new breeding ground for private museums. Indonesian-Chinese collector Budi Tek plans to open his second private art museum, called De Museum, in Shanghai in 2013.

The Museum of Old and New Art, founded by Tasmanian art collector David Walsh.

Just how sustainable are these collector-owned art museums? Founders of private museums are often wealthy entrepreneur-collectors who misunderstand the challenges of operating a private museum; both the Shanghe Art Museum in Chengdu and the Dongyu Art Museum in Shenyang closed within a few years. However, according to famed collector Pearl Lam, private museums are also a way for contemporary art collectors to connect with artists and art professionals and forge new dialogues, aims which underwrite their fiscal goals.

Budi Tek plans on opening De Museum in Shanghai in 2013.

Some collectors, those that baulk at the idea opening an entire museum of their own, have even turned their homes into makeshift exhibition halls. Increasingly popular in Europe, this model offers the public a glimpse into the collector experience, a daily life among art.


Other posts in this four-part series

Part 1: read part one here.

Part 2: read part two here.

Part 3: read part three here.

Part 4: read part four here.


How do you think these trends will play out in the coming decade? How will the role of the art dealer change in coming decades? Will new communication models alter the current collector experience? Are private museums here to stay? Leave us a comment with your thoughts.


Related Topics: business of art, art collectors, art museums

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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