London’s Tate Modern is buying it, New York’s MOMA is buying it, Roman Abramovich is said to be buying so much he’s probably going to open a museum with it…. The desired item is contemporary Russian art, which has seen a huge increase in its value over the past 20 years.
The buying of art in Russia used to be essentially a national market, with Russian collectors “buying to impress their friends” as William MacDougall, director of MacDougalls auction house, puts it.
But now the trend has consolidated and gone more global.
MacDougall and other experts discussed the topic at a specialised session on the closing day of Russian Business Week at the London School of Economics (LSE).
At the start of the economic crisis in 2008, Russian art prices dropped by 30%, but in the same broad terms Moscow property dropped 50% and equities by 75%, making art a good investment in a recession.
It may seem jarring to some to hear art spoken of as a commodity, but art investor Valeri Jerlitsyn points out that if you are spending a shedload, it becomes an investment and you do need to be analytical.
And art dealer Matthew Bown thinks it’s “heartening” to hear about new museums opening out of individual art collections.
Those who bought Russian art at the end of the perestroika period will have seen a 100-fold increase on their investment, way higher than gold, says Jerlitsyn.
Which all keys into one point all three agree on – think long-term when buying art. Like, 75-100 years kind of long-term.