A Fearful Frenzy : The Art Market Now

But the most intriguing motive for the rampage of collecting involves a term unfamiliar to me: “store of value,” having nothing to do with a type of retail outlet. It is about liquidity that is vested rather than invested, and it speaks to dread. Besides being something that people buy when they already own everything else, art shares with gold and diamonds the desideratum (lacked by real estate) of being portable. Charlesworth observes that “alongside global prosperity has come a lot more political instability, and it’s in the interests of the social elite to keep their options open as to where they relocate.”

Your van Gogh is thus the equivalent of a packed suitcase kept under the bed against the morning of a telltale noise from the street outside.

And JJ Charlesworth to add :

And hey, if you want to get some of your wealth out of crumbling roubles and into some other form of asset, why not try art? Not just a few thousand pounds-worth, but millions of pounds worth, all concentrated into a handy bit of wood and canvas with some colors on it. And the best guarantee of its value is its rarity and the security of its reputation.

But where Charlesworth misses the point is precisely when markets crash :

As long as the world economy keeps growing, the art market bubble isn’t set to burst anytime soon. So if you’re a Gurlitt, or preferably the lucky inheritor of a restituted work of early 20th Century modern art, it’s time to sell.

There’s certainly a higher volatility in areas where art pieces are the most coveted, Russia, Middle East and BRICS. And this could hurt prices in the long run. 

→ The New Yorker

Credit : to the defunct Kazimir Malevich, Supermatist Composition, 1916