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The monetary appreciation of paintings: from realism to Magritte

  • Luc Renneboog

This study investigates how investments in paintings compare with those in stocks in terms of risk--return trade-off using Sharpe and Treynor ratios and Markowitz efficient frontiers. A large database was analysed consisting of more than 10,500 auction prices of Belgian paintings over the period 1970--97. These paintings are the auctioned oeuvre of 71 internationally recognised painters representing the main artistic schools (from social realism to surrealism) over the period 1850--1950. Hedonic art returns are corrected for auction location and auction house, artistic school, painters' reputation, medium, signature and painting size. Surrealism and luminism have been the most popular currents of art (in monetary terms), while expressionism and symbolism have gained (financial) esteem. This study concludes that art investments underperform equity market investments owing to the high risk of investing in art and its high transaction costs, resale rights and insurance premia. In addition, the Markowitz efficient frontier shows limited diversification potential for art. Copyright 2002, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Cambridge Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 26 (2002)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 331-358

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Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:26:y:2002:i:3:p:331-358
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