Art as alternative investment

by Mónica Hortelano


A retrospective outlook reminds us, that art has been one of the most coveted passions of human beings. From ancient Egypt, through the Roman Empire, the Viking Age, the golden age of piracy or even the monarchies and Bourgeoisie during the XIV century, supported by patrons such as the Medici, treasure art, has always represented prestige, wealth, and as a consequence power. However, we can only talk about art in a financial market environment since the beginning of the XIX century, when some American families, including the Rockefeller family or JP Morgan, began to invest in art as an alternative to their businesses.

Nowadays, investors continue looking to invest in non-traditional financial capital market assets. That is, they seek to invest in alternative assets such as hedge funds, capital markets (Pe), private debt, infrastructure, real estate or physical assets.

There is not a clear definition of what is considered an alternative investment, but we could say, that they are those assets, that are characterized by the long term, provide greater opportunity for return, low volatility, offer a greater capital value and they behave differently from traditional assets, that is, a low correlation.

However, they are associated with other risks, especially due to their higher administration costs than traditional ones, and the complexity to obtain liquidity since they are long-term investments.

Therefore, taking into account the above, we could say that art is also an alternative investment that, in addition to what has been said, in a period of uncertainty, we could consider it, as a refuge asset and would even act as a good investment option, during a time of high inflation, without forgetting that over time, supply and demand always make their own adjustments to the value of the artwork.

Then, let us see, what the profile of the investors/collectors will be, or what dilemmas they may face when making an investment decision in art.

Contrary to what we might think, the collector does not have to be an individual person, but can be an entity, and in both cases, they could decide to invest in established artists or in those emerging ones. It seems, that the established ones will continue to offer a good opportunity to businesses even if the amount of the initial investment is higher, while emerging artists can always surprise us positively. In one case or in another, the decision of this investment, has usually a strong emotional factor, that differentiates it, from the decision-making in other investments alternative.

For the time being, the big players in sales of the art market continue to be outside Europe, the USA followed by China, and in Europe, the United Kingdom followed by France, Germany and Italy. Spain is still a small market despite being a sector consolidated with heritage wealth, but still with many challenges to increase the Spanish artistic culture, and patronage.

Fortunately, new online initiatives, social networks, increasingly professional advisors, and institutional support are improving the art collecting in Spain, and making Spanish art known outside our borders, where worldwide sales of artworks continue to grow.

Without a doubt, art is an alternative investment, that allows families and entities to diversify their wealth and preserving it for future generations.

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