When a Francis Bacon triptych of his friend Lucian Freud sold for $142 million in November, it was heralded as the highest-ever price for a piece of art at auction. But adjusted for inflation, it didn’t top Renoir’s 1876 painting of a Paris dance crowd, which brought the equivalent of $154 million in 1990. And those numbers don’t reflect the fluctuating values of the art market as a whole, shown as the red line that represents a newly released index of 21,000 works compiled by Stanford finance professor Arthur Korteweg. Though an index fund (the blue line) doesn’t give the pleasure of a work of art, it is a safer investment. The grey bars show the highest-priced works auctioned each year, adjusted for inflation.
David Nahmad Billionaire Megadealer If you know what you are doing, art is the best investment. You have to buy an A-plus painting or something that is not hyped. The super-rich people pay stupid prices for the best paintings, and they fight for the same paintings.
Donald Rubell Co-Owner, Rubell Family Collection The real breakthrough for us occurred sometime around 1979. We’d go to 30 studios a month. If you were lucky, in two or three months you’d find one artist who was interesting. All of a sudden in 1979 every week we were finding [ones we liked]. We bought Cindy Sherman for $25.
Norman Braman Billionaire Car Salesman, Art Collector I don’t recommend people buying art as investment. I think it’s a huge mistake. I don’t know one individual who bought art for investment who has come out well. It’s just the wrong approach. Art is special. We love our art.