Ladies and gents, it’s a momentous moment. Bloomberg and Art Tactic have made a discovery, which they’ve announced in this article: it appears contemporary art… wait for it… is risky investment. Bold and italics mine, because surely such revelations deserve all the typographical emphases possible. So, contrary to what a bunch of collectors were thinking, art isn’t like real estate in Mumbai. Imagine that.
Perhaps I’m being unnecessarily snarky. Perhaps the point of the article isn’t that art is a risky investment but that it’s got riskier in the recent past and likely to get even more risky in the near future. Except, when I find myself using ‘risky’ and its variation three times in a sentence, I’d like to be talking about something that really does have elements of danger and unpredictability to it, like an elegant bank robbery or street luging. Not buying art. Because no one can break down the precise logic that makes an Andy Warhol, for instance, costs as much as it does, so of course there’s risk involved. In the sale to which the Bloomberg article is pegged, one of the factors that is expected to make the Warhol prints of Jackie Kennedy attract additional zeroes is that it’s been with one collector since 1980. How on earth do you objectively value that? People give in to whims and pay ludicrously high or low amounts for works (who can forget you could get paintings by the Progressives for a few hundred rupees or less at one time), as they have for centuries and as they should. That’s why good art has always been considered invaluable.
Anyway, so let’s say that the article isn’t looking to inform me that art is an unpredictable investment. Then here is the actual news flash in that article: contemporary art prices are lower in times of recession than they were during the boom years. Wow. You learn something new every day.
This is the point at which I expect to look at the url and see theonion.com. Except this is Bloomberg, who have launched a news channel in India. Incidentally, the tagline for the channel is “Blunt. And Sharp.”, not because they’re channelling the thoughts of serial killers but presumably because they’re into wordplay.