In Depth

The $68 trillion inheritance coming to the art market

A very valuable torch is about to be passed to a new generation

 

At first sight, “Connect, BTS” might look like a colourful play on words based on a crude acronym – something akin to the successful “FCUK” employed by fashion brand French Connection, perhaps.

It is, in fact, a series of contemporary art projects launched last week by South Korean “K-pop” sensation BTS. (The acronym apparently stands for “Bangtan Sonyeondan”, which translates as the “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” in English, in case you were wondering.)

The boy band from Seoul know a thing or two about attracting the attention of young people. Their latest album, Map of the Soul: 7, sold 3.42 million copies in pre-orders in a week, according to their record label, and it’s not even out for another month.

BTS have decided to use that popularity to entice their young fans into the world of art.

As part of the project, the group is funding 22 artists in five cities to produce artworks with the power to “change the world”. “Instead of people thinking that art is different or complex, focusing on your own experiences and emotions will make this a great experience,” band member Jin said at the launch of the initiative via video link to the Serpentine Galleries in London.

The gallery is playing host to Catharsis – a “virtual forest” created by Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen, as part of Connect, BTS. British artist Antony Gormley will wind 11 miles of aluminium tubing around New York as part of his contribution to the project, while Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno’s Fly with Aerocene Pacha will float a person into the heavens, aboard a balloon powered only by “the sun and the air we breathe”.

A tasteful baseball cap

The Old Masters market is also going after a younger audience. Last week, Sotheby’s launched a collection of streetwear through Highsnobiety, a brand better known as purveyors of “skater” culture.

The hoodies (£105), T-shirts (£55) and baseball caps (£40) are emblazoned with the Sotheby’s logo and works from the venerable auction house’s January Old Masters sale, such as A Sea-Nymph by Ginevra Cantofoli and Allegory of Abundance and Charity. Selfridges will also be hosting a pop-up store that will sell the range. 

Sotheby’s is in good company with its latest commercial endeavours. In 2018 Gucci released its “Gucci Hallucination” range inspired by Old Masters, while that same year Sotheby’s hung four of its paintings at Victoria Beckham’s Mayfair boutique.

None of this is surprising. In 2016 the “millennial” generation (those in their 20s and 30s) became the largest cohort in the US labour market, numbering 56m, according to research from the Pew Research Centre think tank. While “the majority of collectors are [still] baby-boomers”, as art adviser Heather Flow told Artnet News last summer, “they will soon transfer their wealth, and their collections, to their millennial kids”.

When they do, “it will be the largest wealth transfer in world history, with estimates of the impending inheritance ranging up to $68trn”, says Brian Boucher on Artnet News. Auctioneers, galleries and dealers are standing by.

This article was originally published in MoneyWeek

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