In the context of this blog, we generously regard Old Master prints as a subset of the so called Old Masters, which at the same time can stand for Old Master Paintings/Drawings/Etchings/Engravings or for the actual creators of these. Whic is actually a strange case of pars pro toto: you would never use “shoe” synonymously with “shoemaker”.
It is often an amusing pastime to read comments about the current and future state of the Art market regarding Old Masters. Let us first have a look at an article by Felix Salmon, a finance blogger and Editorial contributor to Portfolio.com.
The article dates from January this year and is entitled “Why Old Master Might Not be a Good Investment“. He states that
“[…] the supply of Old Masters is shrinking not because they get destroyed but because they get donated to museums, which in turn takes them out of private hands”
while at the same time
“[,…] the production of auction-worthy contemporary art has never been higher.”
Consequence: The demand for Old Masters is dropping, and will not rise again. Salmon’s advise: hands off Old Masters, go for the “new found glamour” of contemporary art.
A couple of months later, in the middle of a global crisis of the Western finance system, Carol Vogel at the New York Times, states in her article “Investing in Old Masters Economic Hard Times“:
“Unlike contemporary artworks, whose auction prices are subject to wild market gyrations, old masters have historically run a steadier course. ‘Prices may go down a little bit; they may go up a little bit, but we ain’t going out of business,’ said George Wachter, vice chairman of Sotheby’s old master paintings department.”
Apparently, the hedge-fund collectors haven’t invaded the Old Masters sector, so that “some sellers seem undaunted by the current economic crisis“, like Manhattan based Richard Feigen, who bought a Turner in 1982 for $1.1 million, and plans to sell it now for $12 to $16 million.
Even contemporary artists like Jeff Koons, John Currin and Damien Hirst have showed a growing interest in Old master art.
Now I wouldn’t go as far as to judge which one of these two forecasts is more accurate, but I can’t help throwing in here the Niels Bohr quotation (attributed to at least a dozen other authors as well): “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future”. Even worse, there is always the possibility of a Black Swan lurking somewhere.