DP16575 Art in Times of Crisis

Author(s): Géraldine David, Yuexin Li, Kim Oosterlinck, Luc Renneboog
Publication Date: September 2021
Keyword(s): art markets, Crises, cultural economics, economic history, wars
JEL(s): E30, G01, G11, N14, N24, N44, Z11
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16575

Art is often presented as an investment of last resort or a potential safe haven in times of political or financial distress. Yet, as no study has focused on the performance of art markets in times of crisis, this paper fills this gap by means of unclosing historical auction archives. We trace the long-term performance of the UK art market, which we relate to periods of crisis such as the World Wars, economic recessions, inflationary periods, and changes in monetary policy. By constructing an art price index from 1908 to 2016, we show that the value of British art expanded more than seven-fold over this century. We classify crises into economic & financial crises, systemic ones, and war periods. The results show that art outperformed equities and other financial assets in war times, which implies that it could serve as a hedge against political uncertainties. However, in times of economic and financial crises the art market underperformed the equity market. We also detail changes in art preferences for specific paintings' sizes, art schools, art objects' liquidity, art (price) segments, and art(ist)'s nationality across crises