Just before the New York Impressionist and Modern sales open today, let’s take a step back and look at what might be driving the art market. Over much of the last five years, the art market’s rise has been seen as a product of easy money from the US Federal Reserve. In an odd coincidence, the Fed has announced the end of Quantitative Easing just as the latest cycle of New York auction opens.
Will the prospect of tighter money or deflation in Europe squelch the spending on art? Is art—especially tried and true Modern and Impressionist art—a safe haven asset like gold? If we’re going to use gold as a proxy for the art market, something is terribly wrong. Above is a chart of the TEFAF report’s average price for works of art over the last 10 years.
Clare McAndrews report tries its best to get its arms around the art market but the numbers a fairly soft. Nonetheless, McAndrew’s best guess has art trading at a steady level the last three years. Auction house results certainly validate these numbers.
Now, look at a chart of gold priced in Euros over the same period. You’ll see that 2012 was the peak for gold. Oddly, that same year seems to have been a slight pull back for art.
What to conclude from these charts? Not much more than the observation that demand for art doesn’t track demand for other physical “fear” assets like gold.