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This story in the Sunday Times seems like a brief scenario from a Kurt Vonnegut novel, as he might have imagined the world decades into the future. A high-tech, high-security warehouse where art can be stored and never need to be moved ever again, while traders buy and sell it at their computers, capitalizing on fluctuations in price. The physical reality of the artwork ceases to matter or even mean anything, since no one ever needs to see it again. The headline for this report yesterday in the print edition was “Art in Residence” but now, online, it has been improved to “Art for Money’s Sake.” From the article:

The wealthiest Americans have grown wealthier since the Great Recession, and many are investing their wealth in art. Especially with bonds and other assets offering rock-bottom yields, the art market — where reports of record-high sales now emerge regularly — has an obvious appeal. According to a survey last year by Deloitte and ArtTactic, an art-research firm, 76 percent of art buyers viewed their acquisitions as investments, compared with 53 percent in 2012. And with more collectors viewing art as a financial investment, storage can become an artwork’s permanent fate.

Largely hidden from public view, an ecosystem of service providers has blossomed as Wall Street-style investors and other new buyers have entered the market. These service companies, profiting on the heavy volume of deals while helping more deals take place, include not only art handlers and advisers but also tech start-ups like ArtRank. A sort of Jim Cramer for the fine arts, ArtRank uses an algorithm to place emerging artists into buckets including “buy now,” “sell now” and “liquidate.” Carlos Rivera, co-founder and public face of the company, says that the algorithm, which uses online trends as well as an old-fashioned network of about 40 art professionals around the world, was designed by a financial engineer who still works at a hedge fund. The service is limited to 10 clients, each of whom pays $3,500 a quarter for what they hope will be market-beating insights. It’s no surprise that Rivera, 27, who formerly ran a gallery in Los Angeles, is not popular with artists.

 

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