There’s a certain amount of histrionics in Adam Lindemann’s latest Observer column where he atones for having been an advocate of buying art as an investment. It’s not like Lindemann has really proposed turning art into nothing but an asset. Lindemann’s repudiation here is a valuable reminder to those who want to treat art as an investment: “Art collecting is a different thing, it requires interest, patience and hopefully some passion, or at least intellectual curiosity.”
Gone are the days of “I simply must have it,” today there are two serious types of buyers. The mega art buyers who want international trophy art, who have no budget limit and only want the artistic equivalent of oceanfront property. Then there’s the hot money players: Wise guys, hooligans and celebrities. They go for what’s hot, what’s going to make them look smart and make them fast money.
The theory of art-as-investment has taken off and completely won the world over; but now I see it was mostly artifice because the facts don’t support it. (I not only no longer believe my own bull; I’m waiting for the debunking.)
Sure, there are record prices for groups of “similar” artworks but each one is actually different, and yes, we can plot on a graph the upward value trend of the top artists, but the art market as liquid, as reliable, as immune to fads, fashions and the economy, is a fiction. (One trick of the trade: Works by artists whose market has cooled often aren’t offered, so there’s never any public collapse, there’s just a … disappearance.)