The new reserve currency for the world’s rich is not actually currency

Here’s an interesting question: If the world’s economy is filling markets with a pervasive sense of uncertainty, why is the art market picking up steam for yet another season of what would appear to be massive sales?

 For the very rich, art is a store of value—which is not a very new idea and one reason that art is often lumped in together with gold as a safe haven from inflation. Gold prices peaked in 2011 and have been on a long slide ever since. Not art. That’s because art is also an object that provides social currency knitting together a select group of global nabobs and those who want to be seen sharing economic and cultural rank with them.
Owning art—and, if you can, owning a lot of art—provides a kind of access in today’s globally integrated social world that few other objects can provide. The few thousand serious, active art buyers around the world come into contact through transactions, on museum boards and during the endless round of global art fairs and biennials. There is no vetting committee for collectors. Money, patience and determination will get you taken seriously enough. You just have to buy art. And the auction houses, art advisers and global galleries seem more than willing to oblige.


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