09 November 2015

Is A Bad Economy Good For Art?

Changing Seasons - 8x10" - Oil on canvas

I've been asking myself this question for awhile now. With the global price of oil being down the economy has not been in a good state. The media has daily reports of how the downturn in the economy is affecting other industries, especially retail and the sale of so-called luxury items, like real estate and vehicles. Yet, despite all the doom and gloom news about how consumers are being cautious and reigning in their spending, my sales have been better than ever. Paintings have been selling on a fairly regular basis - so good in fact that I'm starting to be concerned about the taxes I'm going to end up paying. 

I am not alone. Other artists have also reported increased sales this past year. Local art auction specialist Levis, in Calgary, Alberta, just finished a record auction seeing 91% of the lots being sold for record high prices, with many paintings selling for more the double the pre-auction estimates. With Calgary being the Canadian centre for the energy sector, their economy has been hit hard by the energy prices and drop in stock share prices. The expectation for this particular auction was not good, so the robust bidding and standing room only audience was a bit of a surprise. Or was it?

When the markets become unstable investment in more stable assets such as jewels, antiques, collectibles and art increase. These goods are viewed as tangible assets able to maintain long term value. This wouldn't be the first time investment in art increased while markets fell. In 2008/2009 art investment increased by 25%. The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF) 2014 Art Market report said 2014 global art sales broke all sales records and surpassed 2007's pre-recession levels with sales valued at over $70 billion US. 

Dr. Clare McAndrew, speaking on the report stated: “The art market reached its highest ever record level of sales with continuing strength in Modern and Post War and Contemporary art.  It continues to be a highly polarised market, with a relatively small number of artists, buyers and sellers accounting for a large share of value.  However, a promising trend counteracting this to some extent is the growth in online sales, which has encouraged a greater volume of sales in lower priced segments”. 

My little sales probably don't even factor into those figures, but the fact my records show increased sales is encouraging. While the rest of the world is full of doom and gloom, my fellow artists may be secretly celebrating their luck.  Besides a more stable investment, the other benefit to investing in art during bad economic times is that when all the news around us is depressing, you have a beautiful piece of art to adorn your house providing a piece of stability and well-being.