The Six Myths That Drive the Art Market

There are, I believe, six myths that almost everyone believes are true about the art market. They are used by the vast majority of dealers to sell decorative art; because they are recognized by customers as rules they have heard before and which cause them to believe they are being told the truth. Here they are:

  • Art has value.
  • Art values always go up.
  • Art is a good investment.
  • You can always resell your art and get out of it at least what it cost.
  • The bigger the name of the artist, the higher the value.
  • When an artist dies, the value of his art goes up.

It is important to understand when these concepts actually do apply and when they are no more than myths. Essentially the answer is that they may hold true in upper levels of the fine-art market, but they almost never do in the decorative-art market.

While the fine-art market represents the largest amount of money that changes hands for art, the decorative-art market represents vastly larger numbers of sales and the largest number of buyers, and therefore, the myths have an effect on most people who buy art.

Surveys I have conducted demonstrate that almost everyone believes these myths are truths that apply to art across the board. This belief is also demonstrated by the large number of clients who have consulted me about reselling a work of art because their circumstances had changed; they wished to make a large purchase or pay college tuition. My warnings that they should not expect a windfall—if their piece sells at all—are always greeted with great surprise, and when I turn out to be correct, disillusionment.

It is still true that the best way to double your money is not to buy art, but rather to take it out of your wallet, fold it in half and put it back in.

Each of The Six Myths is fully explored in

ARTFUL DODGERS: FRAUD AND FOOLISHNESS IN THE ART MARKET