JUAN FERNANDEZ EL LABRADOR Study of Flowers (ca. 1640) Museo del Prado, Madrid
The legendary Old Masters art dealer Richard Feigen observed sometime ago that works of art have become "quasi financial instruments due to changes in the art market which itself has become more of a financial market." Peter Passell, now with the Milken Institute, has also analyzed at length what economists believe is the The most fundamental change in the art market in recent years has been the reconfiguration of art into an asset class as a practical vehicle for investment. The Sotheby's Art Index notes an appreciation of values of over 400% in the last decade. Beyond aesthetic considerations, there is, as William Grampp noted in his book Pricing the Priceless, "a new breed of collector, one essentially interested in the financial return on his investment in art."
There is a difference between art-as-investment and art-as-commodity. The valuation structure of the so-called 'superprices' that began in the late '70s and the '80s ballooned art into a commodity. Many are aware that banks like Citi and Chase have their own art investment branches and a while back Sotheby's founded, in effect, its own investment bank for investors looking for high-end art purchases as a transfer-of-assets within their portfolios. As Dallas-based collector Raymond Nasher commented "Quality art is as good an investment as anyone can have."