Art Investment in London
University of Melbourne - Department of Management and Marketing
March 5, 2008
Council for European Studies Conference, Chicago 2008
This article examines the growth of art investment through two key developments that mirror established practice in other areas of financial investment: the use of price indexes and the growth of specialized art investment funds. Building on my findings from ethnographic fieldwork in London and New York, the top cities for global art sales, I focus on activity in London in this paper. I review work in cultural economics related to art price indices, the role of London as a center for wealth, and provide a brief background on the use of investment fund structures. For both art pricing and art fund investment, I use examples of London-based firms, and briefly discuss the historical case of the British Rail Pension Fund. I argue that art investment activity seeks to understand art in the same ways as other forms of financial investing: numerically, future-value oriented, and in comparison with other investments, and discuss the accountability needs of institutional investors. I conclude with brief comments about the continuing role of place, through industry agglomeration and social networks of the art market in London, concluding that art pricing services are best used for specific purposes, rather than as primary decisionmaking tools. I suggest that individual and institutional investors who lack detailed knowledge of the art market are better off using art experts, either by investing in specialized art funds or through hiring art advisors.
Please note -- drastically revised version was accepted for special issue of journal European Societies. Current draft version (R&R) is available under title "Transparency in an Opaque Market"
Keywords: Economic sociology, social studies of finance, economic geography, art as an investment, alternative investments
JEL Classification: Z1working papers series
Date posted: April 29, 2009 ; Last revised: October 13, 2010
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