Poor man’s guide to art investing – don’t

Wisely, Laura Gascoigne is unconvinced by art as investment.

Equestrian statues of one sort or another are

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becoming a
regular fixture on the Fourth Plinth.


In 2012 we had Elmgreen & Dragset’s paedophile’s delight of the boy on the gilded rocking horse; next up in 2015 will be Hans Haacke’s equine skeleton, inspired by Stubbs, with a live ticker of the London Stock Exchange clipped to its foreleg like a hospital /* xin2 */ bracelet. Too
late for the horse hospital for this old nag, however, reduced to bones by the necrotising fasciitis of the financial market. Titled Gift Horse, Haacke’s monument seems surprisingly near the knuckle for a contemporary art world currently jockeying for position on the FTSE Alternative Investment Market index.

On the same day in January, two invitations dropped into my mailbox. One invited me to spend $2,500 on a two-day Master Class in Art Finance run by TiasNimbas Business School at a château outside Maastricht, where I would “learn about the art

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market industry, gain knowledge on the google_ad_slot = "6023194682"; history, development and ranges of alternative types of exotic google_ad_width = 970; and emotional assets” and acquire essential information to help me “understand the mirage [sic] of products currently on offer”. Now I may not be Lawrence of Arabia, but I know enough about deserts
to understand that a ‘mirage currently on offer’ is by definition guaranteed to disappear before I reach it, along with my $2,500. google_ad_height = 90; So I plumped for invitation no. 2, to a free debate at the London Art Fair led by Melanie Gerlis, Art Market editor of The Art Newspaper and a former financial analyst, on the question: ‘Is Art Really a
Good Investment?’

The event, which coincided with the launch of Gerlis’s new book Art as an Investment?

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A Survey of /* 9-970x90 */ Comparative Assets (Lund Humphries, £30),

pay $100m for a Van Gogh, $28m of that is for


the joy of
looking at it every morning”. Equally, every morning you leave the house without
looking at it

curious features of the contemporary art market boom that peaked in 2007,” she observes, “was that works
which were the most commoditised (that is, they looked the same as each other)…

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were those that were commanding the highest prices and attention. In the age of conspicuous consumption, it became paramount that one’s art was recognisable – and

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recognisably expensive.” So if not rarity, what
determines value in the contemporary google_ad_width = 970; art market? Basically, money. The super-rich

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buy art because it’s expensive, and the more it costs the more they want to buy it. Or as Gerlis google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; puts it: “An artist is good because he sells for a

when the market


in an
artist ‘softens’. The damaging perception that art which does not sell for eye-watering sums is intrinsically worth less – even worthless – causes depression, financial and psychological, lower down the market. Here’s another of Gerlis’s statistics: last year
the average turnover of art dealers with sales under €500,000 fell by 17%, while those with google_ad_height = 90; turnovers of over €10m saw a rise

Gerlis doesn’t address the //--> morality of the

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market – that’s not what her book’s about – but
she does conclude on a wistful note with the observation that
“in reality most of what is produced is in the middle to lower end of the market and where so-called real collectors (rather than the trophy-hunting elite) and people who simply consider themselves art buyers are operating… If the system that supports this

to find it even more difficult to make a living out of what they do and will increasingly… make work that is primarily market-pleasing. Supporting the development of a healthy, low-to-mid-market for
art may be google_ad_height = 90; in the best interests of all who love it.”

At the top end, art investment is a millionaire’s flutter; at the bottom

end it’s a struggle for survival. My bon viveur friend made the mistake of opening a gallery, and during the 1980s recession he committed