Knowledge Defines Growth of Premium Art Businesses

Demand for Art Education Underserved

Luxury markets are now stratified by the level of knowledge, not rising levels of wealth. Interest in premium art globally surpasses historic levels yet education is the mostly still the preserve of the elite. With advances in technology (online art auctions), newer collectors and the affluent and ambitious middle-class young in Russia, China, India, Middle East, the US and Europe are demanding increased access to outstanding education.

Yet the premium-art sector is singularly unsuccessful at responding to these changing trends.

Where are the INSEAD’s, the Harvard’s, Coursera and Udacity of the art world? Where are the Harvard Business Reviews and other valuable learning communities?

The leading providers in art education (Christie’s Education, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Drouot Formation) and publishing (Taschen, Phaidon) are largely small, specialist brands in a fragmented market. Indeed, many of the educational establishments operate entirely separately (Sotheby’s) or in a distinct silo (Christie’s) from the epicentre of those businesses. Members of those communities are left to brag about having graduated from those programmes, the certificate they have been awarded and the opportunity to attend possibly the odd alumni gathering in New York or London but there is little effort to perpetuate valuable communities.

By comparison, Harvard Business Review’s total brand universe is currently over 5 million, including 3.4 million unique visitors each month to and more than 2 million social media fans and followers. Its’ total paid readership is in excess of 275,000.

Building Valuable Communities Key to the Future

The challenge right now for premium art businesses and those at the forefront of art education is to build and integrate valuable communities across all aspects of their organisation.

Creating valuable communities necessitates that the management in these organisations offer their graduates, clients, collectors, prospects, business partners (museums), co-sponsors (corporates), governments (cultural institutes) and the wider communities in each country, greater interaction with peers, the chance to form subgroups, and the ability to customise their learning and development. In this online era, there is no excuse to not offer that other than a failure to properly understand their needs.

The beauty of doing this well, is that the strongest communities have a “gravity” of their own. As new, more intimate and higher priced offerings are launched so even higher quality people are attracted to the community, which in turn attracts even more people, who want to be part of something distinctive. What I call the “nightclub” principle.

They allow people to cross over into different communities, at different times, depending upon their changing preferences, increased knowledge and available time.

In turn the premium-art businesses benefit from a stronger lifetime affiliation and loyalty to their brand, the goodwill that arises from building the graduate’s reputation in the art community, their status amongst their peers, and their “voice” as respected opinion-makers.

Most importantly, they reduce close to zero the costs of acquiring a rapidly growing pool of high potential new customers and collectors.

Here is what my best clients are doing, and feasibly any premium-art business could do the same.

  1. Hire or move into leadership positions people with the imagination, talent and volition to understand the communities that they lead or frequently participate in.
  2. Decide where more communities could and should be created.
  3. Map out and generate value for every community.
  4. Exploit those opportunities.

Facilitating diverse groups of people, who interact with each other and help one another, doesn’t necessarily require the middle person to actively participate. Yet premium art businesses gain the credit and goodwill for having initiated the opportunity and the ongoing platform. Creating online forums, apps, live streaming art educational events, mentoring and coaching programmes for new collectors, exclusive clubs for HNW and UNHW collectors, travel experiences and so on can be done with relative ease.

Indeed there is a market for these communities at increasingly higher price points. Equally there is a peripheral benefit to enhancing the growth and expansion of the business globally.

Springboard to Growth and Expansion

As international premium art businesses seek to expand into China and promote their services they would be wise to think about ”community” in terms of their books, catalogues, audio, video, and apps, to attract the nascent entrepreneurs and collectors, at very low price points but in massive volume. The creation of a bridge to a more sophisticated and formal presence that leads to auctions, previews and other cultural partnerships.

To contact us, please telephone: +44 203 440 5072 or email:

© Ellice Consulting Limited 2013. All rights reserved.

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