The Smarter Way to Invest in Art
Sales of art works have ballooned from $260 million in 1995 to $7.8 billion last year.
People who collect for the long term may get more for their money by adapting the strategies of value investing.
That means forgetting contemporary and postwar works and looking for unfashionable or neglected pieces with intrinsic value.
Here are some approaches to buying outside the bubble.
1. Buy Out of Style
Art is like fashion—tastes change all the time.
“The art market is cyclical,” says Inge Reist, director of the Center for the History of Collecting at the Frick Art Reference Library in New York.
“Some artists go in and out of favor.
If they’re talented enough and were popular enough, there’s a good chance they’ll come back.”
2. Buy Obscure But Important
Some collecting categories remain improbably affordable because few people are aware they exist.
How else to explain the prices of pre-Columbian art—the sculptures, vases, artifacts, and jewelry made in South and Central America from 13,000 B.C. to 1500 A.D.?
3. Buy Outside the Narrative
The worth of any artist is tied to the perceived art-historical significance of the work.
John Constable’s plein air oil paintings are prized because “there was a sense that he was a modernist, after the fact,” says Princeton’s Steward.
Constables that don’t fit snugly within the plein air narrative, however, are comparative bargains.