Out with the new, in with the old

23 03 2009





It seems that old art is the new black.

So, you’ve cashed in your stocks and shares. Sure, bitter tears coursed down your cheeks when you thought back to what they were worth a year ago. But what choice did you have? The nausea-inducing swells of this particular financial typhoon got the better of you.

But now… what to do with all that cash? If reports from the Maastricht Fine Art Fair are to be believed, then the thing to do is to buy Old Master paintings and antiquities. Although the article in the International Herald Tribune by Souren Melikian does seem to convey the slightly desperate air of someone trying to talk things up, that might just be my interpretation. I have been diagnosed with a near terminal case of cynicism, after all. And it’s not at all surprising that people would turn to proven market performers as everything else threatens to end up in the septic tank. Dutch genre scenes, Italian Masters and armless Greek goddesses are the art market’s equivalent of gold bullion.

Now that the hedge funds have been pruned back to mere stumps, the rampant speculation in contemporary art by young artists is likely to cease. People will no longer be looking for ‘the next big thing’ to buy and resell in a couple of months for a hilariously large profit. Instead, they’ll be searching for solid, material investments in which to park their cash. The future gains may be modest by comparison, but at least they’ll get something back.

That’s the theory, anyway.

Image: Gabriel Metsu, ‘Old Woman at a Meal’, sold by William Noortman at Maastricht for $US 4.8 million. International Herald Tribune