Is Art Investment Bad?


By: Meaghan McGurgan


It's shocking to hear these words this weekend. Art Basel and several art fairs have opened in Hong Kong; bringing with them thousands of art collectors and big bucks to spend. Artistic events have popped up all over town. Paris Hilton was spinning at Dragon-i, and restaurants are creating art themed cocktails, meals to enjoy across the city. But is this investment mindset the right way to consume art? 



I was at one of the art fairs yesterday. There were tons of beautifully dressed people. I think I caught a glimpse of Leonardo DiCaprio in the corner and then a large piece caught my eye. It was made of newspapers from around the time of Occupy Hong Kong. It had large words scrawled onto it. The person working for the gallery came over to talk to me. "So, is the artist from Hong Kong?" I asked. "No. He's from New York... But it's an excellent investment."


I was stunned into silence and kind of angry. Here it was. An art piece inspired by Hong Kong and our political struggles, reduced to a commercial product and financial asset. I'm sure someone will buy it this weekend. Lots of art will be bought between Art Basel, Art Central and the many other art events. Arts fairs are good for the galleries and the people who attend them. But is it good for the art?


Art, in my opinion, shouldn't be seen as simply an investment. It should be seen, first and foremost, as art. It's a thing of beauty. I'm sure when the artists were creating it, they weren't thinking of its depreciating value on the market. Like all art forms, visual arts respond to our search for meaning in life. Art can change our cynical view of the world to offer us a new way of seeing things. I'm sure many people would not have appreciated art without the fairs. Just like fine wine wouldn't have been appreciated by many without the wine investment boom a few years ago; but I think that there has to be a line in the sand.



There is a lot of bad stuff in the world recently but art shouldn't be one of them. Artists are being put under pressure everyday to put their more daring work to the side and produce something more commercial. We're losing our chance of the next great art movement with every day we focus on the dollar, rather than the aesthetic value of the art. I put my trust in museums, universities, galleries that offer free showcases, starving artists... rather than the art fairs.


I know it sounds simple and I know the dollar talks louder than me, but I couldn't help but leave yesterday with a really bad taste in my mouth. It's insulting to art to only think of it as an investment.




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