“Making money is art,” Andy Warhol once wrote. If so, death has done little to diminish his productivity. His work has sold for a cumulative $3.38 billion at auction in the past decade.
Plenty of other artists have generated eye-watering numbers. According to artprice.com, Warhol is one of ten to have turned over $1 billion at auction since 2006. Most are global superstars; but the success of Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi, two 20th-century artists unknown outside China except to connoisseurs, indicates how much Chinese money has been pouring into the local art market.
Most genres have outperformed the stockmarket but some genres have done better than others. According to Art Market Research Developments, the underlying value of American pop art has increased nine times faster than the S&P 500 index in the past ten years. Some of the biggest gains have come in niche categories, like 19th-century American photography or 20th-century Belgian painting. The latter group has been dominated by René Magritte: 22 of his paintings have sold for more than $5m over the period. Before borrowing heavily to speculate on a Renaissance masterpiece, you should know that Italian Old Masters have lagged the S&P since 2006. Still, even if they haven’t been a great investment, if you love them, now may be a good time to buy.
Post-war art, a catch-all category which includes the abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning, the figurative painter Francis Bacon and the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, has performed strongly. But the $11m average fee for a Mark Rothko canvas might put you off, while a Jackson Pollock would set you back $2.5m. A more affordable purchase could be a Salvador Dali: with thousands of prints on sale, the average price of his work is a modest $19,000. Twentieth-century Spanish art has provided a much better yield than a wad of share certificates. And it would certainly look better hanging on your wall.~ James Tozer