In the latest excerpt from the Knight Frank Wealth Report Series into Luxury Investments, Hidde van Seggelen, Chairman of the Executive Committee for TEFAF - a Cultural Comms client and one of the world’s most prestigious art fairs - shares his unique insight on the changing behaviour of high-net-worth collectors of different age groups.

Age does not define one’s taste or interest in the world,” says Hidde van Seggelen, Chairman of the Executive Committee for TEFAF, The European Fine Art Foundation, and owner of the eponymous contemporary art gallery based in Hamburg, Germany.

“I have seen clients over 75 years old with more adventurous tastes and interests than some 30-year-olds.”

For Hidde, there is no discriminating. Young visitors to his stand at TEFAF Maastricht’s bustling halls in the spring, or at his gallery, are met with the same enthusiasm and cordiality as their grandparents would be. “I treat all my clients equally, regardless of their age,” he says, noting that, much like great family heirlooms, a passion for collecting can be, “contagious in a positive sense”. 

Hidde’s career began in St James’, London, where he worked for the dealer of antique Chinese and Japanese works of art, Ben Janssens. He recalls that while his responsibilities were broad, the veteran dealer allowed him the freedom to pursue his own interests, such as attending auction house Christie’s first contemporary art sales in the 1990s. There, he witnessed a distinct shift in how art was presented to new generations and the influx of new money from the City that led to the emergence of many new dealerships in London, particularly in the contemporary art field. 

Such is the success of the category at TEFAF’s international fairs in Maastricht and New York where, at the former, contemporary works (including those from Hidde’s gallery) can be found among the flurry of Old Masters and relics of past civilisations. 

“Fast-forward 30 years and the art market has grown further still,” says Hidde. “High-net-worth individuals are spending on various asset classes, and art in particular.” 

While heavy investment keeps the wheels on the art market turning, Hidde advocates for a more organic approach to collecting, saying, “it’s important that you enjoy the experience. I always recommend that clients buy art for personal enjoyment rather than just as an investment.” 

While Hidde believes there are no true differentiators in artistic taste amongst different generations, he does feel that this qualitative, emotionally driven mode of collecting is particularly exhibited among millennial art buyers. 

“Millennials are particularly interested in unique and original pieces created by emerging artists that hold personal meaning for them.” 

Another truism that Hidde suggests is definitive of millennial collecting behaviours has to do with breadth. “Occasionally, younger generations have broader interests than generations that precede them, collecting across various categories.” As such, this poses something of an issue to those looking to benefit from the so-called “great wealth transfer”, although Hidde suggests we should still expect some movement in the art market as collections are passed down to the next generation. The general notion of the “transfer” is that works from private collections will become increasingly available as younger generations start to sell off inherited works. 

However, this millennial disposition to broadbrush collecting might mitigate that, reckons Hidde. “It’s not always the case that younger generations will sell their parents’ collections,” he says. Indeed, it’s not uncommon, but Hidde believes there is a growing appetite to retain and maintain collections. This can include selling just one or two pieces from an inherited collection to fund new purchases by way of updating the family hoard. 

“It’s a fascinating process,” he says. And what of the future of collecting? Well, the question of NFTs is front of mind for risk-averse, curious collectors.

“Since the initial release of NFTs,” says Hidde, “there have been numerous developments that have attracted and repelled collectors with diverging dispositions.” 

Whether TEFAF could entertain incorporating the display and sale of works on the blockchain remains debatable. “Our primary consideration would be whether the material is compelling enough for collectors. 

At the end of the day nothing beats experiencing an extraordinary Old Master or a rare sculpture against the backdrop of the most beautiful fair in the world. That’s what TEFAF is all about.”