Serfin Martinez and his husband Thai Long started collecting art when they were young adults. Now, they run a successful studio in Surry Hills selling prints and canvases from the likes of famous Australian artists like Jasper Knight, David Bromley, Robert Dickerson and Charles Blackman.
They have a large client base of art collectors – many of whom are financed by an interest free loan designed to support Australian culture.
This might be an idea which is foreign to many millennials – spending thousands of dollars on a piece of canvas. It’s a common misconception that you need to drop a bomb or be a connoisseur of art to enjoy it.
But with programs like ArtMoney, an interest free payment program supported by the City of Sydney, and Artbank, an initiative set up by the Federal Government which loans works between three months to maybe up to 20 years, millennials can get their foot in the art door.
Paul Becker, Founder and CEO of ArtMoney, which offers the program in conjunction with over 600 galleries in Australia and overseas, says that the system is an affordable way for anyone to purchase art.
With rArt Money available from $75 to $50,000, you can opt to pay for as much or as little as you want.
“The art world is an amazing place however it can come across as intimidating and unwelcoming. I wanted to make art more accessible.
“Owning your own art is a unique expression of your personality that will bring a lifetime of joy as well as supporting artists and contributing to the kind of culture we’d like to live in,” he said.
Mr Becker said that buyers pay off their artwork over 10 months, but are able to take the home their piece straight away.
The millennial base is small, and Mr Becker said it’s something that ArtMoney is trying to change.
“I think our millennial audience is smaller than it might be because of the misconception that art is only for the wealthy or the art-educated. We are trying to change that,” said Mr Becker.
“It’s around 10% of our client base currently.”
Mr Martinez’s model is one that has subverted the idea of a normal gallery. He sells his pieces online as well as a studio, and offers honest advice and sells the pieces at close to wholesale price.
“ArtMoney is great for millennials who don’t have deep pockets and want a piece or want to start a collection, it’s just a 10 per cent deposit and you can take it home straight away,” he said.
“Online shopping is growing and the online shopping sphere is something that millennials are comfortable with. So we are providing a space which milllennials can associate themselves with.”
While most clients purchase to keep the art as sentimental pieces, Mr Martinez said you can still make a profit.
“We had a client who bought a John Olsen watercolour from me and then resold it at a 25 per cent profit through an auction house,” he said.
Mr Long said they are democratising art and trying to take away misconceptions about fine art and also helping educate young people – around 30 per cent of their client base.
“We try and help young people try and understand art and get to know the trends and see who are the hot artists.”
“It’s about making it accessible and taking it away from that snooty idea that it’s only for the ultra-rich. We want everyone to be able to enjoy art.”
And for millennials wanting to rent art before purchasing, the Federal Government started the Artbank initiative 38 years ago, which director Tony Stephens says is a brilliant way to try before you buy.
The initiative allows corporations, business and private clients to rent pieces for an annual fee for as little as $75 a year to $5,000.
“Artbank is a mechanism which helps millennials get their foot into the art door. We are finding that this is a great way for this generation to get an appreciation for art as most people in this age group living in Sydney or Melbourne are renting,” he said.
“There is flexibility as they can rent pieces and change the artwork according to their built environment. The great thing is, the millennial market makes up the bulk of our private client base.”
Mr Stephens says that while their physical gallery in Sydney and Melbourne has lots of walk-ins, he finds the millennials extremely engaged with the online gallery.
“Millennials are self-directing and they know what they want, especially in an online space. So they are comfortable browsing an art gallery online and making that decision to rent.”