Art in Times of Crisis
CentER Discussion Paper Series Nr. 2021-026
72 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2021 Last revised: 3 Nov 2021
Date Written: September 23, 2021
Art is often presented as an investment of last resort or a potential safe haven in times of political or financial distress. Yet, as no study has focused on the performance of art markets in times of crisis, this paper fills this gap by means of unclosing historical auction archives. We trace the long-term performance of the UK art market, which we relate to periods of crisis such as the World Wars, economic recessions, inflationary periods, and changes in monetary policy. By constructing an art price index from 1908 to 2016, we show that the value of British art expanded more than seven-fold over this century. We classify crises into economic & financial crises, systemic ones, and war periods. The results show that art outperformed equities and other financial assets in war times, which implies that it could serve as a hedge against political uncertainties. However, in times of economic and financial crises the art market underperformed the equity market. We also detail changes in art preferences for specific paintings’ sizes, art schools, art objects’ liquidity, art (price) segments, and art(ist)’s nationality across crises.
Keywords: art markets, art price, auction, monetary policy, systemic risk, political risk, wars, financial distress, inflation, cultural economics, economic history
JEL Classification: G01, G11, Z11, E30, N14, N24, N44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation