The best investments are in works of art, says report

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The best investments are in works of art, says report

Some of the best investments today are to be found not in stocks, property or even gold, but in works of art, with some 40% of art collectors working in the asset management industry. These are the conclusions of an investment report published today.

Together with art historian Anna Tietze, Currys PC World partnered with the Samsung Frame TV to bring a small segment of the art world to light. For the first time, the most expensive paintings in the world have been categorised and profiled. The (presumed) owners of said works have also been put under the microscope in the new research compiled for the World's Chief Art Collectors campaign.

The new research looked at ten individuals who have spent more on a painting than anyone else in the world. It found that the ten art collectors spent an average of $1.7m per painting.


America first 
Half of the world's major art collectors are American, with the other half coming from all over the world, including Europe (predominantly Britain, Russia and Italy), the Middle East (especially Qatar) and Asia (China, Japan).

Among the group, only one is a woman; a reality that rings true even when the list is expanded to the 106 most expensive paintings in the world. Casino magnate Elaine Wynn is truly in a class of her own, having purchased the Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon (1969) for $142m in 2013.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 40% of the collectors work in asset management, an area of work where making intelligent investments is a major component of the job. With contemporary art reportedly delivering a compound annual growth rate of 4% over 5 years, it's clear that the art market is a viable alternative to traditional investment avenues.

The most - and least - expensive works
The most expensive piece featured in the list is Interchange by Willem de Kooning, which was purchased for $310 million. It currently resides within the art collection of hedge fund founder Kenneth C. Griffin, who commands a net worth of $9.9 billion. Collectively, the art collectors have an overall known net worth of $59.73bn.

The least expensive piece in the list is Nude, Green Leaves and Bust by Pablo Picasso which was purchased by Sir Leonard Blavatnik at auction for $119.5 million. One of the wealthiest people in Britain, Blavatnik's taste for art is well documented, with him having paid millions for Damien Hirst's woolly mammoth sculpture Gone But Not Forgotten (2014). In 2018 Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman bought Da Vinci's Salvador Mundi for $450m, on behalf of Louvre Abu Dhabi, although the painting has yet to be exhibited. 

So, why are certain paintings so valuable? Art historian Anna Tietze says "There are several factors that come into play. Scarcity is one - if the artist hadn't produced many works, or if there aren't many left on the market. Provenance is another - a work with one or more distinguished previous owners. And then there's authenticity - the work has got to be believed to be by the named artist."

Pia Copper, an expert in contemporary Chinese art, told International Investment: "The purchase of the Modigliani by Liu Yiqian marked a new era for Chinese collectors. Buying a masterpiece, internationally known, by someone who is not a Chinese artist opens a new era for cross-buying across cultures. In the past, Chinese collectors preferred porcelain or Chinese ink painting. 

"Some artworks, especially paintings, have become extremely high value assets, due mainly to their rarity and their fame. These are "one ofs", unique pieces. Not only do they increase the profile of the collector, they are also associated irremediably with the collector as objects and objects of value. We do not yet know what impact this will have on the wider economy. 

Copper continued: "The concentration of the world's greatest masterpieces in Asia, and perhaps in the world's new free port zones, has become a new variable for the world economy."

The full report can be found here.

Author spotlight

Christopher Copper-Ind

Christopher Copper-Ind is editor-in-chief of International Investment. Before this, he was editorial director of The Business Year, from 2014 to 2017.