“Russia takes the lead in regulating…”

100 Rubles c1910That heading would be funny in any context but here the article in Skate’s is referring to an apparent push to regulate “Art securitization” and Art Investments in Russia.   We have for some time, on ArtWorld Salon, commented on the relative lack of oversight of the opaque and enthusiastically “managed” system that is the Art Market.   The private dealing, auction pumping, ability to cellar works that aren’t selling, and lack of any form of reliable pricing register, all make the Art market a challenging environment for anyone thinking of buying that painting on the wall as a possible investment.   For that reason, and because I am old fashioned, I would always encourage every buyer to think of the work as something they could love for a long time, rather than a way of trying to hedge the currently volatile stock markets, or that condo in Vail.

So it is rather amusing to think that Russia might try to regulate Art funds without tackling the underlying market; never mind the difficulties they will have actually enforcing such regulation in a reasonable and effective manner.   But then I read beyond the title.   Apparently a “powerful local asset management firm controlled by Putin loyalists” launched 2 Art funds on August 27; so now this new regulation starts to look like something else.   Am I the only one that thinks this looks like a way to help market the Funds? The illusion of oversight to support the notion that these are investment grade propositions?   Or am I being too cynical here?

As I have said previously on ArtWorld Salon, to get real transparency into the Art Market, and create a basis for any genuine oversight of market practices, we need a price register for each and every work of Art that someone tries to promote as “investment grade”; with NO exceptions and NO omissions.   Which means that such an Art Register cannot just cover auction prices for a given artist or a given work, but must record every transaction, public or private, for each work from the day it is completed by the artist.  Only then can we plot the genuine ups and downs of market value of a given work, or the Artist who painted it.  Only with a comprehensive and complete price register for every transaction related to any given piece do we eliminate much of the price “influencing” that takes place today.  Artnet is a start.   But it is nowhere near comprehensive enough, for any individual work, to be a reliable guide.

Sigh.   But don’t hold your breath.   I don’t expect such transparency any time soon.   Caveat emptor is still the rule.   I wish the Russians luck.

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