investing

Art sales soar

Monday, Dec. 28
Posted: 2 p.m. EDT

It seems art is back as a major investment, and selling at historically high prices.

This month, Christie's in London sold a rare Raphael chalk drawing for a record $48 million (double its high estimate) to an anonymous buyer. A Rembrandt portrait sold for $33.2 million to a telephone bidder representing Las Vegas casino owner Stephen Wynn. Total results from the auction were $111.4 million, surpassing the $102 million high estimate, according to The Wall Street Journal.

At a sale for Romanov heirlooms last month, Sotheby's brought in $11.6 million. One piece alone, a Faberge Imperial gold cigarette case, sold to an American collector for $1 million, 10 times its high estimate.

And in Miami, nearly 75 percent of the 250-plus international galleries in the city's premier annual art show, Art Basel, posted double-digit sales gains over the 2008 event, according to an article in The Miami Herald.

All around, last year was not a pretty picture in the art market. This year, the optimism is there, but according to the Miami Herald, it's still guarded. The article notes that it wasn't a feeding frenzy at Art Basel this year. The crowds were thinner, and buyers took longer to decide and countered with lower prices.

So who are the buyers? According to The Wall Street Journal, many of these conspicuous consumers are investment bankers anticipating a boom year in pay. As compensation for Wall Street executives rebounds, spending seems to be following suit, with confidence in the stock market providing the impetus.

Is art a good investment?

Questions? Comments? E-mail jmartel@bankrate.com

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