15 Nov 2007

Who is investing in art?

There appears to be a popular misconception that art is bought only by the rich and the famous. Or, by those who are serious art collectors. The truth is art has suddenly become a viable asset class for young professionals. Thanks to the IT boom there has been a spurt in salaries, and as a result there is a growing number of people with deep pockets. In Bangalore itself, there is a huge interest in art from individuals working in the IT sector. In the past, once people had invested in real estate and mutual funds, they looked at art as another investment avenue. However, now art has become a status symbol. It has become a prized possession that needs to be acquired and then flaunted.

Gallery sources reveal that there has been a significant increase in the number of buyers in the age group of 20 – 30 years. These are buyers who have Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakhs, which they would rather spend on art than splurge it on mindless shopping. It also indicates the awareness levels in this young age group about the potential of art as an investment instrument and its snob value.

What stands out is that there are many first time buyers who visit art galleries with the sole intention of buying art as an investment. Unfortunately, most of them have no clue about art and rely completely on the gallery in selecting the artwork. A majority of them, in fact, are drawn towards artwork that is aesthetic and has a far greater decorative value than an investment value. However, thanks to the hype in art investment, they end up buying works that do not appeal to them. Also, another popular trend that seems to be catching on is that festival shopping for jewelry and clothes now also encompasses shopping for artworks. These generally are in the more affordable range and with a greater emphasis on aesthetics to fit in with home decor.

(Published in Financial Times)
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