Big Art, Small Collectors

A fascinating new trend seems to be developing in the world of collecting art and antiquities; and that is the increase in the number of children participating in this unquestionably sophisticated and pricey hobby.
Growing up in the mid to late 20th century, children’s collections were usually composed of stamps, postcards, bottle caps, and if the child had an extraordinarily large allowance, coins.

Today, however, as a general boom in art and wealth is experienced in society, especially among younger people who are raising their children with a keen desire to give them the best possible education and a taste for high culture, children are more often participating in auctions or purchasing great works of art in galleries.

According to Hugh Hildesley , executive vice president of Sotheby’s , when he joined the esteemed auction house in 1961 children were never present at sales. “Children were unheard of, and we would have discouraged their presence,” he remembers. In 2007 alone there have been upwards of a dozen children present, as onlookers or even bidders, at both auction previews as well as sales.
At age 4 Dakota King began collecting contemporary art in 2002. Among her more than 40-piece collection is a Panda from Andy Warhol’s series on endangered species.  “Panda is darling and chubby and cute, and at night he protects me,” Dakota comments.

Along with modern art there are children that are also collecting antiquities. Soliman Aboutaam, age nine, collects Greek and Roman coins because he enjoys the “monsters” imprinted on the ancient currency, such as griffins and chimeras. Their father, Hicham Aboutaam, an antiquities dealer and co-owner of Phoenix Ancient Art with his brother Ali Aboutaam, began the collection for his two sons. The younger son, Alexander, age seven is learning proper care for his 2,000 year old coins. They are always careful to just hold the coins along the rim, “so that the front doesn’t erase,” Soliman says.

Still, these “small collectors” are unusual despite the fact that the trend seems to be increasing. Andrew Reed, owner of a $3,000 painting called “Smurf” by Michael Vasquez, says his friends are not too interested in his prized painting. “What my friends really like are my baseball cards.”

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