Investing in art has moved from the stuffy collections of the wealthy elite, into the mainstream as investors around the world seek to diversify their portfolios, hedge against risk and collect some beautiful talking pieces for their office or home walls along the way.
In 2019 the Art Basel UBS Art Market Report contended that the global art market was worth close to $US67 billion. Now to many investors, this may seem like something too good to miss out on, however, although the market value increased vs. 2018, the net gain over 10 years is 8.7 per cent, which is lower than the Australian rate of inflation!
With over 40 million transactions in the global art market, there is an underlying assumption of ‘liquidity’ in the market, as could be assumed with the trading of shares, bonds or other financial instruments. However, this is not the case for all art, the market certainly is a ‘buyer beware’ scenario.
Like with other financial instruments, without prior experience or knowledge an investor wouldn’t simply walk in and buy any art piece off the shelf – unless they had the means to do so and like the work.
There are indeed intermediaries, galleries, and buyers’ agents providing services from simply the buying and selling of the works, through to providing services such as ‘buyers agents’ as you would find in real estate, who scout out particular works or artists. In addition, there are art investment specialists that work directly with clients to purchase high growth prospect works from rising or established artists.
It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and no industry is this more apparent than the art world. What some people may see as an eyesore, could fetch astronomical prices at auction; it is simply about investing in the right works at the right time, and like any asset class, knowing the right time to move them.
Transparency and markets are often an issue with art
It is no secret that there are forgeries and many cowboys trading art around the world, and not merely in a Jack Ryan or James Bond thriller. Artworks, especially those considered ‘fine art’ can be sold for millions, tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars, so it is no wonder there are forgeries and fakes circulating out in the marketplace.
The art market as a whole is largely unregulated, leading to a wide range of issues in itself. In addition, the trade in fine art is unpredictable because it depends not just on supply and demand but also on the unmeasurable factor of taste.
Although this is starting to evolve and change, with many art registers and auction houses around the world implementing blockchain technology for the purpose of cataloguing and tracking the movement of art from galleries, through to storage to stamp out forgery.
Like all investments, for those who are entering the market for the first time, or potentially looking to step their investment up a level, seeking expert, certified & professional advice is always the best course of action. As previously mentioned, there is a wide range of experts around the world that specialise in particular art types or even investment art pieces.
These are pieces that are in high demand by private and corporate houses, that seek to lease the asset, providing ongoing and incremental returns, while the owner also enjoys the asset value appreciation. Through the right investment strategy, there are significant opportunities and ROI that can be realised, not only for a capital gain but also for portfolio hedging.
Like art, antiquities have grown significantly in appeal for portfolio diversification in the past few decades. However, before such time, antiquities have been the source of much conflicts, such as the crusades in which the knight’s templar plundered much of the middle east in the quest for the holy grail, said to be the cup that Christ passed around at the last supper.
All that aside, antiquities have a large potential capital appreciation, and many of us don’t even know what we may have in the cupboard. From dinner sets, glassware, pottery, vases, furniture that has been created by famous artists, or production houses – such as Royal Doulton – have huge potential for capital growth.
If you were lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle of 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage from your grandparent’s cellar from back in the day, you would be doing ok. Individual bottles of the 1951 vintage are still held by collectors; one sold at auction in 2004 for just over $50,000.
The global wine industry was valued at approximately USD 302.02 billion in 2017 and is expected to generate revenue of around USD, 423.59 billion by the end of 2023, growing at a CAGR of around 5.8% between 2017 and 2023.
Investment in wine most certainly is not a new idea, however with high levels of transparency, accountability and liquidity – unlike say cryptocurrencies – there are huge opportunities to be made at all levels of the spectrum. It should be remembered that we are not suggesting you head down and get a case of 2019 cleanskins from your local bottle shop as an investment.
The fact of the matter is “less than 1% of all wine produced worldwide may be considered investment grade, with the market traditionally preoccupied with the prestigious chateaux of Bordeaux. The finite quantities produced, ever-decreasing through consumption generally ensure predictable growth in the long-term with a perfectly inverse supply curve”.
But in saying that, as new and emerging markets – such as the Chinese & South East Asian middle-class rise in numbers and appreciation of wines, the markets are certainly being challenged in terms of their supply/demand curve.
Like investing in stocks, art or maybe a fund, it is important to not just go it alone. Also remembering that just because you may like a particular wine, it doesn’t make it valuable. There are many wine shows around the capital cities and wine regions of Australia, as well as auction houses – such as Langton’s in Melbourne and Christie's Auction House in Sydney – that run specific wine investment courses, auctions and of course events.
Not only could you make a good investment by attending such a course, but also you will learn a lot and have a great time while doing it.
Other alternative investments
These include Private Equity Infrastructure, Private Equity Real Estate and Private Equity Debt Funds; these are very selectively used and are most certainly not available to any investor off the street.
The investments outlined are highly complex financial instruments that are used by only ‘institutional investors and extremely wealthy individuals.
That being said, it is still very important as you move through your investment journey, especially that into alternative investment opportunities, to understand them – if even from a basic level. As such, we have provided a brief synopsis of each to give you an understanding.
Private Equity Infrastructure
Investing in Private Equity (PE) infrastructure is an investment in utilities, transport, social infrastructure: such as hospitals and schools and of course energy assets. Unlike ‘private equity’, PE Infrastructure is treated differently due to its low volatility and strong cash yield. In addition, infrastructure assets performance is often implicitly or explicitly linked to macro indicators such as inflation, GDP, population growth, and has a very low correlation with other asset classes.
So, why can’t I jump on this asset I hear you say? Well, often the buy-in for such an investment is in the Millions, even hundreds of. Not only that, but they are highly complex in their structure and done through the big end of town. So although it would be great to put your $10,000 savings into, unfortunately, this is not for you.
Private Equity Real Estate
Typically for private equity real estate, the minimum rate of investment is often starting from $250,000. This is often a barrier to many investors.
Private equity real estate is an asset class composed of pooled private and public investments in the property markets. Investing in this asset class involves the acquisition, financing, and ownership (either direct or indirect) of property or properties via a pooled vehicle.
Although very risky – due to the fluctuations in property prices, supply, demand and other both micro & macro-economic factors – the return on investment is not uncommon to realise 8%, 10% even 20% depending on the countries and regions you are investing in, and the types of real estate assets – i.e. hotel, commercial, mixed-use and residential developments.
Private Equity Debt Funds
Created, raised and managed by professional investment firms and managers, a private equity debt fund is used for making investments in various ‘debt’ securities according to one of the investment strategies associated with private equity. At inception, institutional investors make an unfunded commitment to the limited partnership, which is then drawn over the term of the fund.
Similar to other funds, there are passive and active funds, depending on their level of management, however, as a general rule, they offer less attractive returns for investors. “A debt fund may invest in short-term or long-term bonds, securitised products, money market instruments or floating rate debt. On average, the fee ratios on debt funds are lower than those attached to equity funds because the overall management costs are lower”.