As every industry grapples with generational transitions, art is no different. Buckhead art consumers and collectors have changing tastes and a more sophisticated eyes for beautiful work according to one local art expert who provided us a fascinating inside look at the ongoing evolution in how people are consuming art today.
Spalding Nix (Left), the gallery’s owner, is a Buckhead native with ties to Sotheby’s, The National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian. His gallery has been part of Buckhead’s art scene for the last 15 years showcasing popular Buckhead artists like Sally King Benedict, among many others.
“I grew up in Buckhead on Habersham Road, and this was my world growing up,” said Nix. “When I came back to Atlanta from New York, I worked at Jackson Fine Art. I had always wanted to open my own gallery, and was inspired by Jane Jackson, one of my heroes, to follow her model and go for it.”
“Buckhead’s art scene was already alive and well when I returned, so it made sense to open a gallery here,” said Nix.
Changing of the Guard
Over the last decade, Nix has seen growth and significant changes in art preferences in Buckhead. These changes, in his opinion, are part of the generational transitions that every industry is seeing now.
“If you look at what the Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation collected, you can see their living rooms with formal, off-limits spaces filled with beautiful English and French antiques. But there have been some important galleries that have helped push Atlanta forward in terms of its more contemporary tastes. Jane Jackson is certainly one of them,” stated Nix.
Nix observes that Generation X and the Millennial group in Buckhead are looking for less formal work and more contemporary pieces that reflect today’s society. Art collection is less about a status symbol for these groups and more about finding something that can become part of their lives.
“Younger tastes are less about big gold frames and more about something they really like and want to have in their homes to be part of their lives,” observed Nix. “It’s one thing to go to a museum and appreciate a work of art, but it’s another thing to buy those things and take it home to hang on your wall. These things become family members. You spend a lot of time with them.”
Social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram have had a massive impact on art appreciation and consumption, according to Nix.
“Visually this next generation is better trained than any before it, because as more people spend time flipping through Instagram, we’re really training our eyes. You’re seeing more comfort with abstract painting and photography than I think we’ve seen with other generations,” said Nix.
Supply and Demand
The landscape of buyers is naturally shifting, a change that was catalyzed by the recession.
“We have a perfect storm between the Baby Boomers, who were great collectors. This group is in the process of downsizing because of life events,” said Nix. “The next generation is less interested in that stuff. We have all the supply and very little demand. A lot of the older things are harder to sell now because it’s a reflection of change in tastes that we’re seeing between Baby Boomers and minimalist Millennials.”
Even popular home styles are influencing how people choose art for their homes. Nix cites the rise in open floor plans as being crucial to how buyers select art, given that a piece can be viewed from multiple rooms.
The Approachable Art Scene
Nix praises Atlanta and Buckhead’s art scene as being the most approachable out there for art neophytes.
“What’s nice about Buckhead and the Atlanta art scene is that it’s manageable. If you were trying to get a feel for the art scene in New York, it’d be a full time job, a lifetime effort and you probably never would get a full sense of what’s happening.”
If you’re interested in learning about the Buckhead scene or art in general, Nix suggests tapping into gallery and museum email subscriptions to find out when artists are speaking or debuting new work. Nix’s favorites include:
“Buckhead’s digestible art scene makes it perfect for any level of art knowledge or appreciation. Just like anything in this world, if you take the time to learn it and experience it, you can fully appreciate the work. There’s a learning curve with art appreciation, just like everything else.”
“I love going to openings, because even with perfect strangers you have a lot to talk about with what’s on the walls,” added Nix.
In addition to showcasing artists, the gallery also hosts a Culture Club that gives locals the opportunity to learn more about cultural and artistic happenings around the world. Their salon artist talks give an intimate look into an artist’s craft or even the history of opera.
Buckhead Artist to Know: Spencer Sloan
An artist Nix is most excited about right now is one of Buckhead’s own, Spencer Sloan. Sloan is known for taking paparazzi photos of famous celebrities like Kim Kardashian, destroying the photo’s composition with a glitch art program and building the photo back up into a beautiful abstract photo.
“He’s an artist who’s really pushing the envelope. What I love about Spencer is that his work is so conceptually beautiful.”
Want to know more about Spalding Nix’s upcoming artist talks and gallery events? Click here.