Adam Lindemann points to the usual culprits–low returns, inflation fears and the human need to hold on to something more solid than an abstract idea of wealth. That naturally leads his observer piece to compare art to gold:
That’s how I like to feel about art: It has no use, but it has real value, at least in the minds of some.
Then he makes this illuminating aside:
After all, didn’t the Nazis go around stealing all the art they could, and now 60 years later people are still fighting over it? They’re still suing over who stole it, who kept it and who really owns it.
The Nazis did indeed hoover up everything that could be moved. And within the Nazi thirst for treasure as the fascists sought to wipe away the past and establish a new world order there may be the obverse of what’s driving our own art market. Globalization and the dramatically rapid transference of power from Europe and the US to the emerging countries in Asia and the Southern Hemisphere seems to be generating a similar grab for anything that has a connection to the past and was valued.
It’s an irony of the Nazis that they wanted to wipe away the world but possess its treasures. Most revolutionary movements destroy the priceless objects of the old regime as an act of ritual cleansing.
Today’s newly wealthy are no looters; however, their passion for works of the past or works that represent the America’s ascendancy in global culture–Pop art and Warhol–suggest a desire not to wipe away the old world as they are upsetting it but an aspiration to literally own it.
Why Is the Art Market Rising (Observer)