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How Asia’s red-hot art market is attracting more philanthropists

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The expansion of wealth in Asia has not only contributed to an increase in art collecting among HNWIs, but also to a rise in the underserved segment of those furthering philanthropic causes related to the arts.

“Our clients who collect art often have an active interest in supporting causes related to arts and culture. This is an underserved area as many philanthropists are more likely to support causes that alleviate and eradicate poverty, inequality, healthcare and environmental challenges,” Mae Anderson, head of Philanthropy Services Asia at BNP Paribas Wealth Management, told Asian Private Banker.

Mae Anderson, BNP Paribas

Enthusiasm for art in Asia is catching up with international peers, according to Anderson. She explained that in 2000, China represented only 1% of global art sales, but in 2021, it accounted for 20%.

The infrastructure and marketplace for art has also progressed considerably in Asia, with a robust pipeline of artists, galleries, art fairs, auction houses and museums in the recent decade, she pointed out.

“Art is now seen as part of an aspirational lifestyle for the well-heeled, with many not only wanting to acquire art, but also wanting to focus on art patronage and philanthropy,” Anderson noted.

Typical collector profile

There are mainly two types of art collectors in the market, one is seasoned collectors from families who have collected art for two or three generations and mainly acquire Impressionist, Modern, and Asian Modern Art; the other is self-made entrepreneurs who have accumulated a lot of wealth in a relatively short period of time and see collecting as a symbol of success, according to Anderson.

On top of that, the younger generation Z is a fast rising segment who collect contemporary art by international artists whose works often carry strong social messages. Compared to previous years, where there used to be more of a focus on buying local and Asian artists, in recent years, there is a growing focus on contemporary art and the acquisition of Western artists.

Philanthropic approaches

There are various ways that the French bank’s philanthropy segment engages to help clients implement their philanthropic ambitions in the art field.

When receiving requests for assistance in offering donations or grants to arts and culture charities, Anderson and her team will help the clients source, select and evaluate potential beneficiaries and programmes. “Donors will want assurances that their donations will be well invested to assure that intended positive outcomes are met,” she noted.

In terms of bursaries, scholarships, awards or funding for academic research, donors are noticeably keener on endowing art schools and institutions with endowments to support students and faculty. “In Asia, and especially South and Southeast Asia, where there is less academic literature on the canon of art in these areas, private funding towards research and documentation of art practices is an area of growing philanthropic interest,” she commented.

Some clients are keen to set up more formal structures, such as foundations for art, to look at longer term support for the arts – especially in capacity building, Anderson noted. “We often represent our clients’ interest in supporting museums through donations and grants or loaning or gifting artworks,” Anderson said, adding that many museums depend heavily on private donations in cash and kind.

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