Bloomberg caught up with Jim Chanos about the art market twice this week:
The art world “is like a guild meeting,” Jim Chanos, the founder of hedge-fund firm Kynikos Associates LP, said at a dinner he hosted for about 90 people at the Dorchester hotel. “Everyone gets together, they gossip and they pass judgment. It’s kind of silly and you have to take it with a grain of salt. You pick your spots,” said the investor, who’s known for betting against companies and markets.
Jim Chanos is no fan of art as an investment or even as an asset. The famed short-seller has tried to tie Sotheby’s stock to equity bubbles but even with recent market swoons, BID has collapsed without bringing down the broader equities market. That’s not to say that Chanos doesn’t have smart things to say about art consumption in this appearance with Stephanie Ruhle on Bloomberg starting around 12:00 in the video:
RUHLE: All right. Hedge funds make me think of the ultra 1 percent. You have been critical in the past of the art market, saying we are sitting on a bubble. Where do you stand now?
JIM CHANOS: Well I was in London last week and I spoke to a Bloomberg reporter Friday night about it. We’ve been short Sotheby’s. We were public on that. And I think that – that the art market is an interesting microcosm of all (inaudible).
RUHLE: The super rich?
JIM CHANOS: – about it in that – that it’s socially acceptable conspicuous consumption.
RUHLE: One more time?
JIM CHANOS: Socially acceptable conspicuous consumption. I think it’s a market that studies have shown correlates more with income inequality than general economic growth. And I think that’s an interesting part that a lot of people don’t realize about the art market, that the richer the rich get the better the art market does. The art market didn’t do so hot in the ‘60s and ‘70s when all incomes were going up. It did really well in the last10 years and in the late ‘80s, for example. So you have to be a little careful with art. I think art is wonderful. If you love a piece of art, buy it. Enjoy it. Put it up on your wall. But to use it as a financial investment or barometer I think is a little scary.
RUHLE: It doesn’t make you change your tune on Sotheby’s when you see a guy like Dan Loeb get in the game?
JIM CHANOS: Look, Dan’s an old friend and I think that he’s going to do the best he can. I just think that this is a company tied to the art market. And – and that’s the problem with it, and he and I disagree about that.