What I found particularly interesting when researching this topic is that the art market can essentially be divided into two different markets – one market that has similarities to the Gold Standard, and another market that has similarities to the fiat money system. Just like the fiat money system, the contemporary art market relies very much on faith in the artists whose work is being bought and sold. The value of the work of contemporary artists is dictated by the galleries who sell the work with buyers basically expected to have faith in the valuation set by the gallery. Just like with fiat currency, if people lose faith in a contemporary artist then their work is severely devalued, or even rendered worthless. The market for classical figurative works of art, on the other hand, resembles the gold standard because of the intrinsic value many of these works contain due to their physical characteristics and their status as historical documents. Regardless of what happens to the art market or to the reputation of the artist in question, such classical figurative works of art (portraits in particular) will always have significant technical, historical and documentary value; just as currency backed by gold will always have value regardless of what happens to the economy of the country whose currency is backed by the gold. When it comes to art investment and wealth preservation, the security and stability of the value placed on a work of art is extremely important. Although the glamorous world of contemporary art market speculation may seem to be the most popular and most viable method of profiting from the purchase and sale of art – fine art is, by the very nature of the art market, a long term investment. In fact, the benefits of investing in art can only really be taken advantage of when a long term approach is taken.
To finish with there are three important points that I want to emphasise:
1. the long term value of a work of art is linked to a certain degree to the extent to which one can disassociate the work of art from the artist, and the extent to which one can assign value to the actual characteristics of the art object as an independent entity.
2. the value that can be placed on portraits because of their status as historical documents is the sort of future proof intrinsic value that will always remain with the portrait and cannot be disassociated from the portrait. It is this sort of intrinsic value that makes the portrait a good candidate for use as currency.
3. when it comes to art investment and wealth preservation using fine art, it is possible to take a strategic and mathematical approach that virtually guarantees success over the long term. This sort of approach requires, however, require discipline, patience and objectivity.