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Art as a Wartime Investment: Conspicuous Consumption and Discretion

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  • Kim Oosterlinck

Abstract

The financial underperformance of art as an investment is well documented. In contrast to studies conducted on peace-time periods, this paper shows that the art market in occupied France during WWII significantly outperformed all alternative investments (bonds, equities, as well as currencies exchanged on the black market) other than gold. This suggests that art may be a good hedge against low-probability disasters. The paper further demonstrates that motives to purchase art (consumption and investment) vary over time. In his theoretical model, Mandel (2009) attributes art’s low return to the utility derived from conspicuous consumption. In occupied France during WWII, conspicuous consumption was impossible for artworks deemed “degenerate” by the Nazis. The price evolution of “degenerate” versus “non-degenerate” artworks confirms the importance of conspicuous consumption in artworks’ pricing. Eventually, the paper defines the concept of discretion, the ability to store a large amount of value in small and easily transportable goods. During wartime, illegal activities and the risk of being forced to flee the country increased the interest for discreet assets as shown by the better performance of small (and thus discreet) artworks in comparison to large ones.
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Suggested Citation

  • Kim Oosterlinck, 2017. "Art as a Wartime Investment: Conspicuous Consumption and Discretion," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/232458, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:ulb:ulbeco:2013/232458
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    1. Bocart, Fabian Y.R.P. & Hafner, Christian M., 2012. "Econometric analysis of volatile art markets," Computational Statistics & Data Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 56(11), pages 3091-3104.
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    Cited by:

    1. Levy, Daniel & Snir, Avichai, 2018. "Here Lives a Wealthy Man: Price Rigidity and Predictability in Luxury Housing Markets," EconStor Preprints 175843, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    2. Georges Gallais-Hamonno & Thi-hong-van Hoang & Kim Oosterlinck, 2016. "Price Formation on Clandestine Markets: The Case of the Paris Gold Market during WWII," Working Papers CEB 16-048, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    3. David, Geraldine, 2016. "Art as an investment in a historical perspective," Other publications TiSEM 2361da4b-d827-4cae-91ce-1, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    4. Kim Oosterlinck & Anne-Sophie Radermecker, 2018. "The Master of …”: Creating Names for Art History and the Art Market," Working Papers CEB 18-007, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature

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