From Scrolling to Collecting
Social Media’s Role in Gen Z’s Art Acquisitions

This work shows a series of lozenge-shaped pink lines, surrounding the word "vibes", tightly squeezed in the centre.Vibes © David Shrigley 2019
Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

Interested in buying or selling
an artwork?

Browse artworks

In an era where social media reigns supreme, Gen Z has redefined the art acquisition landscape by merging their tendency towards digital exploration with artistic investment. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok have transcended their original purposes, morphing into vital tools for discovering and collecting art. This is more than a passing trend; rather, it is a revolution in how art is accessed, appreciated and acquired. Through targeted ads and the strategic digital presence of certain galleries, social media has become an indispensable bridge between Gen Z and the art world, shaping the future of collecting for the most online generation yet.

The Digital Evolution of Art Acquisition

Since the advent of the digital age, the process of art acquisition has undergone a remarkable transformation – one that was further accelerated by the global pandemic. While historically the art world has been known as a fortress of exclusivity with transactions occurring within the halls of galleries and auction houses, the digital revolution has democratised access to art, allowing collectors, enthusiasts and the curious to explore and purchase art from the comfort of their homes. Social media in particular has played a pivotal role in this evolution. Instagram and TikTok, with their visually rich platforms, have become not just spaces for social interaction but also vibrant marketplaces for art. Here, artists can showcase their work directly to potential buyers, galleries can curate virtual exhibitions, and collectors can share their acquisitions, creating an ecosystem that thrives on accessibility and a sense of transparency.

Gen Z and Social Media: A Seamless Connection

Gen Z's relationship with social media is intrinsic to their daily lives, as they have grown up in a digital-first world. This cohort has seamlessly integrated social media platforms into their routines, using them as primary sources for communication, entertainment, shopping and information. This deep-rooted connection extends into their cultural and aesthetic expressions, including art acquisition. For Gen Z, social media is often an extension of their identity, making it a natural conduit for discovering and engaging with art. Their adeptness at navigating these platforms enables them to explore and connect with the art world in innovative and profound ways, reshaping the future of how art is consumed and collected.

Instagram @sothebys / Supermodel and entrepreneur @KarlieKloss lends her eye to the latest Contemporary Curated auction at #SothebysNewYork.

Instagram and TikTok: The New Frontier of Art Marketing

This shift towards digital platforms has also led to innovative marketing strategies: the use of targeted ads, such as those on Instagram and TikTok, leverages the sophisticated algorithms of these platforms to target potential buyers effectively. In order to appeal to Gen Z, these ads must tell a story, captivating the imagination and drawing the prospective buyer into the art world in ways traditional methods never could. HENI editions, for example, has successfully targeted ads on social media – enough to raise over £200 million in their collaboration with Damien Hirst.

Social media also allows for galleries, auction houses and artists to collaborate with influencers or celebrities: one notable recent example is the fact that Sotheby’s invited supermodel and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss to curate 8 works of art from their latest Contemporary Curated auction in New York City. Her personal selection will remain on show for one week, from 23-29 February 2024.

Moreover, the rise of online galleries and virtual viewing rooms has expanded the horizons of art acquisition. These have adeptly utilised digital tools to engage with a younger demographic, employing aesthetic marketing strategies that resonate with the sensibilities of Gen Z, an approach that hopefully cultivates a new generation of collectors.

Instagram @jealous_london

The Influence of Digital Aesthetics on Art Preferences

The influence of digital aesthetics on Gen Z's art preferences is profound and transformative in a world where social media feeds are meticulously curated and every post is an opportunity for self-expression. Art galleries and brands targeting this demographic have adapted by employing aesthetic marketing strategies that resonate deeply with their visual preferences, including carefully curating feeds and creating interactive content, all designed to capture the attention and imagination of target audiences.

This emphasis on digital aesthetics has led to a notable shift in art preferences among the younger generation, with a growing interest in contemporary and visually striking artworks. The allure of these pieces often lies in their ability to stand out on social media, blending seamlessly with the curated aesthetics of Gen Z's online worlds. Jealous Gallery stands as a prime example of how galleries can craft aesthetic appeal: by showcasing vibrant, engaging and topical artworks, it taps into the visual language that resonates with this demographic. Their approach highlights the importance of adaptability to digital trends and underscores the pivotal role of aesthetic marketing in attracting and retaining the attention of a generation that lives and breathes social media.

Navigating the Online Art Market: Gen Z's Buying Behaviours

Gen Z's engagement with the art market is largely underpinned by a digital-first approach to art acquisition. This generation is predominantly drawn to the works of emerging artists and has a pronounced affinity for Street Art, reflecting a desire for art that resonates on a personal and cultural level. Their purchasing habits reveal a preference for online platforms and direct interactions with artists or their studios, highlighting the value placed on accessibility and directly supporting creators. Unlike more traditional collectors, Gen Z is less likely to seek art through conventional channels such as auction houses and high street galleries, opting instead for more contemporary and accessible avenues.

At the heart of this collecting behaviour is a search for personal enjoyment and a desire to support artists they admire, rather than viewing art as a financial investment. This indicates a shift in how art is valued, with emotional and aesthetic appreciation taking precedence over economic considerations. The importance of being part of a community and a fascination with the creative process also play significant roles in their purchasing decisions. Despite their enthusiasm for collecting, Gen Z's spending on art prints tends to be modest, reflecting a careful and budget-conscious approach to acquisition. This generation's preferences and buying habits signal a broader transformation in the art world, emphasising the significance of digital platforms and a direct connection with artists in shaping the future of art collection.

The Future of Art Acquisition in the Digital Age

The future of art acquisition in the digital age is being reshaped by the habits and preferences of Gen Z, signalling a transformative shift towards a more accessible, personalised and digital art market. As this generation continues to prefer emerging artists and street art, facilitated by the ease of online platforms and direct engagement with creators, the art world is witnessing a democratisation of art collection. The traditional gatekeepers of art acquisition are challenged by the rise of social media, pop-up events and independent shops that resonate more deeply with Gen Z's values and behaviours.

With a focus on personal enjoyment and supporting artists directly, Gen Z is crafting a new narrative for art collection, one that prioritises emotional connection and community involvement over financial gain. As such, the art market is evolving to meet these changing demands, embracing digital innovation and the creative potential it unlocks, ensuring that art remains relevant and accessible to the most online generation yet.

Discover live market data against your collection

The only dedicated prints portfolio management system in the world. Add your collection to track value in real time.

Track demand on our trading floor

Track live demand in works from our artist's portfolios and view access to the works you're looking for.

What to
Invest in Now

Data-driven market commentary on what's driving growth, supply & demand in the Prints and Multiples market.