Do Art Auction Houses Camouflage Results? – artmarketblog.com

Do Art Auction Houses Camouflage Results? – artmarketblog.com

I received an email on December 2nd from one of Australia’s leading art auction houses, Menzies Art Brands, with the subject ‘Defamation Alleged’. The email read:

DEFAMATION ALLEGED

Menzies would like to bring to your attention this story on Page 10 of The Age newspaper today:

LEADING art auctioneer Rod Menzies has described as ”scurrilous” allegations made by Robert Le Tet and Rick Anderson about his business practices, in The Age yesterday.

Mr Menzies, an entrepreneur, cleaning business tycoon and owner of Menzies Art Brands, said he ”always honoured every deal” and was ”well known for carrying out every commitment and for his integrity”.

He said he observed the ”highest ethical standards” and denied suggestions to the contrary. He said in a statement that he had instructed his lawyers to start proceedings for defamation and damages claiming $38 million.

Enquiries
sydney@menziesartbrands.com

Before we continue, this is not the first time that allegations have been made regarding Menzies’ business practices. In 2008 complaints were made by other auction houses in Australia regarding Menzies’ alleged failure to adequately disclose details regarding guarantees provided by Menzies, as well as details regarding works being sold by Menzies that Menzies either owned or had a share in. Menzies denied the charges which were dropped in March of this year by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

This time around, Menzies is being accused of misleading reporting of art sales through his auction house. The accusations were aired in the Melbourne, Australia based newspaper ‘The Age’ where details of a transaction involving a painting by Brett Whiteley, one of Australia’s most famous and valuable artists, were questioned. According to The Age, the painting in question was reported by Menzies Art Brands as having been sold in Sydney on the 25th of March for A$1.44 million. Apparently, however, only two months later Mr. Menzies was offering the painting in question for sale privately through his company for A$1.25 million, which suggests that it wasn’t sold at all. It is then alleged that Mr. Menzies struck a deal with a collector, named as a Mr. Anderson, to swap the Whiteley painting, and another painting, for two paintings owned by the collector. The swap apparently took place in June of this year.

If this allegation wasn’t enough, ‘The Age’ alleges further issues regarding ownership of the Whiteley painting. Apparently a Melbourne financier launched a court case to retrieve the Whiteley painting, which he claims he owns because his company, Questco Pty Ltd. , loaned money to an art dealer to purchase the Whiteley painting – a dealer who is now having financial difficulties. The Melbourne financier apparently then asked Menzies to sell the painting through private treaty for A$1.25 million, but Menzies reneged on the deal a short time later. Menzies is being accused of then returning the painting to the dealer, not the financier, and purchasing it off the dealer for A$850,000. Mr. Menzies then put the painting up for sale in March of this year, which is where this story began. Menzies sought to retrieve the painting from Mr. Anderson whom he sold the painting to by private treaty and apparently even offered several other paintings in exchange which had also been reported as having been sold at auction. Mr. Anderson has so far declined to return the painting.

According to the article in ‘The Age’:

Mr Anderson claimed Mr Menzies has been ”ramping” up the art auction market, and he said it was in the public interest to know how the prominent auctioneer operated: ”He reported the Whiteley painting as sold and then he offered it to me for $200,000 less than what it was supposedly sold for at auction,”.

No charges have been laid against Mr. Menzies or his company and, as you can see from the email I was sent, Mr. Menzies strongly denies the allegations made against him and his company. The question of who is telling the truth will presumably come to light if the defamation case goes ahead.

The reason that I have alerted you to this case is that I have been on a bit of an art auction house crusade of late in an attempt to inform the public about what goes on behind the scenes and hopefully encourage the art auction houses to be more transparent and ethical with their dealings. With transparency being one of the biggest issues, I thought it was important to highlight this case even though none of the allegations have been confirmed as being true.  I will be doing a series on this issue as there are lots of allegations to cover.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

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The Art Auction House Sin Files – artmarketblog.com

The Art Auction House Sin Files – artmarketblog.com

Where does it all end? When will people realise that although the questionable practices exhibited by some auction houses are legal, they should not be tolerated? How far will art auction houses be able to go before someone steps in and says ENOUGH IS ENOUGH !! Let’s take a look at the history of sins committed, and those allegedly committed, by the big three art auction houses.

The most famous art auction house scandal took place in 2000 when Christie’s and Sotheby’s were dragged through the mud because of allegations that they had formed a “cartel” and were agreeing in advance to fix commission rates. The price-fixing scheme violated federal antitrust law by eliminating competitive choice and cost customers millions of dollars. Christie’s dobbed on Sotheby’s and were given immunity from prosecution for their information. Sotheby’s ended up taking most of the flak with several senior members getting the boot and two senior managers, A. Alfred Taubman and Dede Brooks, both getting jail sentences. Sotheby’s, Christie’s and their owners also paid a civil lawsuit settlement of $512 million.

In September of 2004, Forbes magazine reported that Christie’s were allegedly withholding information regarding the authenticity of objects from clients. These allegations were made by Canadian newspaper heiress Taylor Lynne Thomson who went on to sue Christie’s. According to Forbes magazine: “Thomson sued and British courts ruled in May that Christie’s had been too lax in its catalog description, leaving out qualifications to its classification of the urns as being “Louis XV.” The judge highlighted the auction specialists’ decision to remove the qualifying words “possibly Italian,” which would’ve raised the possibility of the urns being far less valuable 19th-century copies.”

Christie’s controversial purchase of the highly regarded gallery Haunch of Venison in 2007 caused a flurry of opinions, many of called the sale a conflict of interest and accused Christie’s of blurring the lines between what galleries and auction houses offer. Christie’s wasn’t the first auction house to purchase a gallery though as Sothebys also made a foray into the gallery world by purchasing Noortman Master Paintings in 2006.

In 2008, CNet founder Halsey Minor sued Sotheby’s for allegedly failing to fully declare when they had an ownership stake in works that they were selling. Sotheby’s won the case and were awarded $6.64 million in outstanding debts. Minor can appeal but, as far as I know, has yet to do so.

In February of this year Christie’s allegedly settled with a brother and sister who sued Christie’s for allegedly failing to identify a painting that they consigned to the auction house as being by Titian. The painting was sold for £8,000 by Christie’s in 1993 as a painting ‘from the school of Titian’. It was determined after the painting had been sold by Christie’s that it was in fact a genuine Titian which was worth in the region of 4 million pounds. The siblings claimed that Christie’s failed to competently research and advise on the painting’s value when it was sold in 1993.

In May of this year (2010), Jeanne Marchig, a Swiss animal philanthropist, launched a law suit against Christie’s for failing to identify a painting owned by Marchig, which was sold by Christie’s for $19,500 in 1998, as a painting by Leonardo worth upwards of 100 million pounds. Christie’s sold the painting as a mere ‘19th century German’ work for which Marchig is suing Christie’s for ‘wilful refusal and failure to investigate the plaintiff’s believed attribution, to comply with its fiduciary obligations, negligence, breach of warrant to attribute the drawing correctly, and making false statements in connection with the auction and sale’. Christie’s disagrees with the claims that the painting is a Leonardo. Reaching an outcome with this case is likely to take quite a while.

The most recent art auction scandal involves auction house Phillips de Pury and their ‘Carte Blanche’ sale which took place on November the 8th (2010). So many issues have been raised in relation to this auction that it would take a series of posts to explain them all so I will only mention the most serious allegations. To begin with, the so called “curator” of the auction, Philippe Ségalot, not only was directly responsible for negotiating and organising the consignment of works for the sale, but he also advised some of the buyers – a situation that could be seen as a serious conflict of interest. If this wasn’t enough of a conflict of interest, Segalot is reported to have bid on works himself presumably on behalf of his clients. There have also been several reports that the auctioneer on the night, Simon de Pury, failed to make it clear to the audience when works failed to sell, which auctioneers are legally required to do. By failing to announce the failure of a work to sell the auctioneer could be seen to be attempting to deceive the audience by inducing a false sense of success and excitement.

These are only a few of the more serious scandals that have arisen as a result of some questionable tactics and practices adopted by the world’s top art auction houses. Are these the sort of businesses that you want to business with? Would you trust such a company to treat you fairly and honestly? I have made it my mission to make art collectors and investors more aware of what is happening in the art auction world and hopefully at the same time encourage the art auction houses to be more honest, ethical and transparent. Stay tuned, there is more to come………

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

Are Art Auction Houses Mocking Art Buyers? – artmarketblog.com

Are Art Auction Houses Mocking Art Buyers? – artmarketblog.com

A couple of posts ago I said that I have great respect for art auction houses – well, after the events of the last few weeks that respect is rapidly declining. If you have read my last few posts on contemporary art auctions then you will know that I have issues with the way some auction houses conduct their business. Unfortunately, over the last few days it has come to my attention that the problems that I identified are only the tip of the iceberg. Not only does there seem to be the potential for art auction buyers to be influenced by incorrectly categorised and catalogued works, but apparently some auction houses now appear to conducting auctions in a manner that suggests that art buyers are unable to make decisions for themselves when buying at auction, and need to be told what they should be buying. There are two recent events that have lead me to this opinion the first being the Phillips De Pury “Carte Blanche” auction, and the second being the recent Sotheby’s November contemporary art auction.  Before I begin I want to state that the following is purely my opinion and not in any way a statement of fact.

A comment by Alex Rotter, head of the Contemporary Art Department at Sotheby’s in New York, was the first indication I received that the extent to which auction houses are influencing what buyers purchase may have increased recently. Yes, auction houses have been influencing what art buyers purchase for many years, and as businesses are more than entitled to do so, but it seems that they have begun to exert an even stronger influence of late with the seemingly blatant tactics that have caused me to write this post. According to Rotter, commenting on the Sotheby’s November contemporary art auction, “The success of tonight’s sale was the result of editing – getting the right young, Pop and Abstract Expressionist material into the sale”. So, is this an indication that auction houses are doing something that I am sure many suspect they have been doing for some time – deliberately orchestrating sales to encourage potential buyers to pay more for works than they should, or purchase works that they didn’t originally intend to buy? Is Rotter suggesting that by including a certain array of works, and arranging the catalogue in a particular way, that the auction houses are able to influence buying behaviour? Or, is he suggesting that the contemporary art sales are so carefully planned to ensure that the auction consists of works that they know they have buyers for, that they auction house can guarantee themselves a successful sale before the sale has taken place? Or is the meaning of this comment something else entirely? I will leave the answers to these questions up to you for the mean time. Food for thought though……

Now for the “Carte Blanche” sale. Having a themed auction that allows buyers who are looking for something very specific to be offered a range of related objects is something that I have no problem with; Phillips often hold themed sales such as their music themed sales. I do, however, have issues with a blatant marketing tactic being masked as a cultural and curatorial exercise, which appears to be what has taken place with the Phillips De Pury “Carte Blanche” sale. Philippe Segalot, the so called “curator” of the sale, is quoted as saying in a Phillips De Pury press release that:

“I have always been interested in the concept of curated sales, where the artworks are selected not for their market value but for their artistic quality, historical importance and coherence within the group. Here, I tried to push this idea further by bringing together a small “collection” comprised of my favourite works by my favorite artists. The result is a true self-portrait, a close representation of my life as an art lover, an art collector and an art advisor.”

To begin with, I have a problem with the notion that such a wide range of Segalot’s favourite works from his favourite artists just happened to be available for sale at the right time. AmI really to believe that the owners of Segalot’s favourite works of art were for some reason willing to sell those works just because he asked nicely? Phillips De Pury mentioned in the same press release that I got the above quote from that “He (referring to Segalot) has developed the Carte Blanche sale with the same focus and attention to quality that a private collector would develop their own collection”. So, Segalot spent 50 years putting this sale together did he? Secondly, I have a problem with Segalot suggesting that the mechanics of the sale were not financially motivated – I mean why else would an auction house hold such a sale? It is not as though the sale had any art historical or cultural significance, yet Segalot seems to be suggesting that it does. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I have a huge issue with Phillips De Pury suggesting, in my opinion, that buyers need someone like Segalot to tell them what they should be buying. Because the auction houses seem to be making such an effort to dictate buying trends, there is a huge risk of the works associated with these trends dropping in value significantly when the auction houses move onto promoting the next profitable trend. I believe that the more the decision of what to purchase is taken out of the hands of the collectors and investors, the less stable and sustainable the art market becomes. The reasoning behind this philosophy is that collectors (and even investors) create and strengthen long term trends whereas the market is interested in making as much money from whatever trend seems most profitable at the current time.

The reason that I have such a problem with the developing and strengthening trend of auction houses dictating what art people should be buying, and encouraging buyers to pay more than they should be paying for works of art, is that some time in the future the buyers who fell for this ploy will likely find out that they paid too much. What Phillips De Pury seem to be inferring with their “Carte Blanche” sale is that the works included in the sale somehow become more valuable or desirable because they were chosen by a well known and respected art world figure. And, judging by the success of the sale, plenty of buyers fell for the ploy. I just hope these buyers don’t expect to be able to recoup what they spent anytime soon.

There are even more issues with the “Carte Blanche” sale than the ones I have outlined, but those will have to wait for another post.

Disclaimer: Auction houses are well within their rights to conduct their business in the ways that I have discussed above.  I do not claim to have any proof that the auction houses are doing anything wrong, but am merely raising questions in the hope that they encourage discussion and dialogue.  The above post is purely my opinion and is in no way a statement of fact.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

Fixing the Contemporary Art Auction Crisis Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

Fixing the Contemporary Art Auction Crisis Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

In my last post I detailed two definitions of contemporary art from two different contemporary art museums that challenge the rather inadequate and misleading definition of contemporary art that many auction houses seem to abide by.  Even though I had found two good museum definitions of contemporary art, I continued my search to see what else I could find.  And I am glad I did continue searching because I came across a particularly interesting definition of contemporary art provided by the Tate Museum.  According to the Tate, contemporary art is a:

“Term loosely used to denote art of the present day and of the relatively recent past, of an innovatory or avant-garde nature. In relation to contemporary art museums, the date of origin for the term contemporary art varies. The Institute of Contemporary Art in London, founded in 1947, champions art from that year onwards. Whereas The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York chooses the later date of 1977. In the 1980s, Tate planned a Museum of Contemporary Art in which contemporary art was defined as art of the past ten years on a rolling basis”.

This definition is somewhat misleading because it lists the date range of two Contemporary art museums, the Institute of Contemporary Art in London and the The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, as though these museums define contemporary art by these date ranges.  What I found was that the beginning of the date range of works in the collections of both these museums is in fact the year that each museum was founded.  So, the Museum is not defining contemporary art as work produced from the year each museum was founded, but is in fact just maintaining a collection that is partly historical and archival even though their focus is on work that is new and experimental.  What interested me most about the Tate definition of Contemporary art is the revelation that “In the 1980s, Tate planned a Museum of Contemporary Art in which contemporary art was defined as art of the past ten years on a rolling basis”.  I personally think that this definition of contemporary art is the most accurate and sensible that I have come across and is the definition of contemporary art that the art auction houses should be abiding by.  Continuing with the museum definition theme, I think that the Getty museum provides one of the most blunt and profound definitions of contemporary art on their website which states that “Strictly speaking, the term “contemporary art” refers to art made and produced by artists living today”.  Here, Here !!!.

So, what does this mean for the art market, I hear you ask.  Well, let’s take a look at the results of a recent contemporary art auction held by an auction house that I will not be naming.  The reason I am not going to name the auction house is that there is not just one auction house on which one can lay total blame for this problem.  I also have great respect for the major auction houses regardless of whether or not there are issues relating to the classification and categorisation of works of art.  Looking at the top ten prices paid for this auction, which was promoted as a contemporary art auction, there were eight artists whose work was included in this top ten. The eight artists were Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg and Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Out of those eight artists, seven are dead – the only surviving artist out of the eight being Gerhard Richter.  Even more interesting are the dates that each of the top ten works were created:  1962, 1955, 1962, 1985, 1966, 1992, 1969, 1962, 1986 and 1987.  Six of the works were created prior to 1970, three prior to 1990 and only one after 1990.  The most recent work in the top ten was a work by Gerhard Richter, the only living artist in the top ten, which was created in 1992.  Of all the works in the top ten, the Richter would be the only one that I would consider referring to as a work of contemporary art – only at a stretch, mind you.

Although the top ten prices paid were dominated by the work of deceased artists, I must acknowledge that the auction did include works by true living contemporary practising artists.  Unfortunately the auction house uses the ridiculous misnomer ‘recent contemporary artists’ when referring to the work of the true contemporary artists.  By definition, something that is ‘contemporary’ is recent so to make reference to ‘recent contemporary artists’ is just plain wrong.  The fact that this term has to be used at all is, in my opinion, evidence enough that there is something amiss with the way some auction houses are cataloguing, categorising and presenting the works of art that they are selling.  If you don’t think that this is a big problem in the scheme of things then I respect that and even admit that you may be right.  But for me, this is the straw the broke the camel’s back; just another seemingly small problem that when added to the other seemingly small problems equal a rather big problem.  I do have some plans to combat all these small problems but you will have to wait to find out what my plans are.

image: ‘The Art Crisis’ by Robert The

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

What Art Investors Can Learn from Gold Investors Pt. 5 – artmarketblog.com

What Art Investors Can Learn from Gold Investors Pt. 5 – artmarketblog.com

The reason that I finished my last post with a description of a possible economic and financial doomsday like scenario is because such an event would really expose how secure and how safe the various different methods of wealth creation and wealth preservation are. A large majority of the vehicles of wealth creation that we choose to invest our money are dependent on the continued stability of the cultural, social, monetary and economic systems that are currently in place (ie. share market, money market, bond market, currency market etc.). One of the most vulnerable stores of wealth that pretty much everyone has positions in is fiat currency, better known as money. The definition of a fiat currency is: state-issued money which is neither legally convertible to any other thing, nor fixed in value in terms of any objective standard. These days most national currencies are fiat currencies including the US dollar, the Euro and the UK Pound, which makes the currency of most countries very vulnerable. Not only would a currency collapse have a devastating effect on the price of goods, it would also cause any positions in an investment vehicle that is only redeemable in a fiat currency, and is not a tradeable commodity (ie. stock market, bond market etc.), to essentially become as valueless as the currency that the investment relies on. The 0nly way to protect one’s self from total devastation in the event of a currency collapse is to have physical positions in a tradeable commodity such as gold. Gold is an asset with inherent value that is also a tradeable commodity. According to an article in Time magazine: “Gold, then, can be considered a currency, unique in that it is not directly tied to any country’s economy. With a global recession that is bound to continue to shake up the purchasing power of all foreign currencies, gold is safer from political and economic instability than cash.”

So where does art fit in to all this?. As we all know, a major financial or economic crisis (or even a little one for that matter) can have a major negative effect on the art market, especially the speculative contemporary art market. Because the perceived investment potential of contemporary art relies heavily on the progression of the artist’s career, which in turn relies on the continued stability of the cultural, social, monetary and economic systems that are currently in place (like the share market), contemporary art is likely to be devalued to a much greater extent in the event of a major economic than the work of the old masters or the impressionists. According to Jim Morris of art and antiques firm Corfield Morris: ‘buyers of contemporary art may be disappointed with returns. He defines contemporary art as works produced by artists who are still alive. “The problem with buying contemporary works is that many of the artists don’t have track records,” said Morris. “I’m afraid an awful lot of it is not going to stand the test of time.”’ Contemporary art is therefore a very risky investment and is not a good store of wealth; contemporary art is essentially the fiat currency of the art world. The work of the Old Masters, the Impressionists and many of the modern masters are, however, a different story. As well as already having a market track record and an already established legacy, the work of the Old Masters, the Impressionists and many of the modern masters have the benefit of having been endowed with some or all of the inherent characteristics that have a quantifiable and qualifiable intrinsic value such as subject matter, style, technical complexity, historical documentation, artistic proficiency, etc. Although some people may disagree that art can have intrinsic value, I believe that the work of certain movements or periods can. Regardless of whether or not you agree that art can have inherent properties of intrinsic value, the fact remains that if the work of the Old Masters did not have intrinsic value, then the art objects would not have any value independent of any and all other factors, which they do. If a work of art in the style of an old master were to be sold as the work of an unknown artist from an unknown period and without any provenance, the art object would still have value even without all other associations and therefore must have intrinsic value. The reason that these inherent properties have a quantifiable and qualifiable value in the case of the work of the Old masters, the Impressionists and many of the modern masters is that there are usually other similar works with which one can make comparisons and judgements and thus determine the value of these inherent properties in relation to another similar work. Particularly in the case of the Old Masters there are often artistic and technical standards that can also assist in the valuation of the inherent physical characteristics of a work.

To be continued…….

Part 4:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/05/31/what-art-investors-can-learn-from-gold-investors-pt-4-artmarketblog-com/

Part 3:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/05/18/what-art-investors-can-learn-from-gold-investors-pt-3/

Part 2:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/05/07/what-art-investors-can-learn-from-gold-investors-part-2-artmarketblog-com/

Part 1:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/04/30/what-art-investors-can-learn-from-gold-investors-artmarketblog-com/

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

The Spectacle of the Art Market Part 3 – artmarketblog.com

The Spectacle of the Art Market Part 3 – artmarketblog.com

Natalya Goncharova's Linen

I am sure that many of you would agree that it has become the norm for people to approach fine art as consumers instead of as scholars or connoisseurs. If you were to ask me whether there is anything wrong with this I would say that there definitely is. Don’t get me wrong, I am obviously a strong supporter of the art market, but also recognise the need for a balance between the commercial and the cultural. Without that balance the art market becomes unstable and the art world becomes too closely connected to the art market. Whether you realise it or not, the art market requires a certain level of “infiltration” by scholars and connoisseurs. It is the scholars and connoisseurs who add value to works of art by generating information and knowledge that make works of art historically and culturally more significant. It is this information that is generated by scholars and connoisseurs that we should be using to justify the dollar value of a work of art because this information is usually based on intrinsic characteristics of the work of art that cannot be disassociated from the work of art or become obsolete, and therefore encourage more stable long term values. The contemporary art market, on the other hand, often relies on factors that have very little to do with the work of art its self such as social status, economic status, popular trends and financial gain. These factors can become obsolete very quickly which usually means that the dollar value that these factors generated also disappears causing the sort of correction that we have just experienced.

In February of 2008 Nicholas Penny, the curator of the British National Gallery, made a statement that he was going to put an end to the gallery’s blockbuster exhibition days. According to an article in the Guardian Newspaper, Penny said “The responsibility of a major gallery is to show people something they haven’t seen before. A major national institution should be one that proves a constant attraction to the public. What is important is encouraging historical and visual curiosity in the general public.” Ralph T. Coe, the former director of the Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo., a former president of the American Association of Art Museum Directors and a former chairman of the Museum Committee of the National Endowment for the Arts, put the problem in even simpler terms when he said: “One of the saddest things museum connoisseurs like me have had to observe is the substitution of entertainment values for the intrinsic values incarnate in great works of art that alone can confer aesthetic authenticity.” This problem of the substitution of entertainment values (the spectacle) for intrinsic values that the cultural sector is experiencing is also a big problem for the art market as I have shown above. We need to stop the spectacularisation of the contemporary art market if we want to have a more culturally and historically significant period of art production. I believe that we need to be asking the following question on a far more regular basis: in one hundred years time will this work be able to be exhibited in a museum, and will people consider the work to be culturally significant and be historically important?

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

Art Market Arbitrage – artmarketblog.com

Art Market Arbitrage – artmarketblog.com

art investment 2For those of you unfamiliar with arbitrage, investorwords.com defines arbitrage as “attempting to profit by exploiting price differences of identical or similar financial instruments, on different markets or in different forms”. In my opinion, arbitrage is one of the most interesting and potentially profitable ways to make a profit from fine art but it does require a relatively high level of art market knowledge. The reason that arbitrage is possible with the art market is because the art market is relatively inefficient and pretty much unregulated. What this means is that the value of a work of art can differ greatly depending on where a work of art is sold.

There are essentially two ways that one can profit from price discrepancies for a single work of art. The first involves purchasing a work of art from a smaller, perhaps regional auction house where the prices are likely to be lower, and then selling at one of the big two auction houses where prices are likely to be higher. To profit from this method of “investing”, one needs to be able to identify works of art that do have the potential to attract a high price if presented to a more wealthy audience which, as I stated earlier, would require an extremely good knowledge of pricing and the mechanics of the art market. The second arbitrage method involves purchasing a work of art from one country where that artist/subject/period is not very popular and selling in another country where that artist/subject/period is more popular. An example of this form of art arbitrage took place in Japan where, during the recent contemporary art market bull run, dealers would purchase works of art at auctions in Tokyo and then sell them at a higher price to the west.

The internet has had both a positive and negative effect on art arbitrage. On the positive side are the increased opportunities available to art arbitrageurs due to the ease with which one can now browse auction catalogues from all over the world and bid on those works online. However, the internet has also provided the opportunity for more people to find and bid on works of art which increases the likelihood of there being competition for that work of art that the arbitrageur has identified as being a good buy. All in all, art arbitrage can potentially be a quick and highly profitable method of investing in art, but it is also very risky and requires an excellent knowledge of the art market and a decent amount of capital. Best left to the experts then but an interesting concept all the same.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.