Art During a Recession

In uncertain economic times, investors often look for assets that can weather recessions and provide long-term stability.

Performance of Art Through the Economic Cycle

Blue-chip art has proven to be such an asset, with an annual average appreciation of 8.9% since 20001. The S&P 500 comparatively increased 4.2% year-on-year over the same period2 . This long-term performance during periods of both economic growth and turbulence could make investing in art a sensible choice when building a diversified investment portfolio.


Diversification is key to weathering economic recessions and avoiding significant losses. Art, with its low to negative correlation to other traditional asset classes, such as stocks and bonds3, provides just the diversification that investors need in their portfolios. Financial advisors are increasingly recognising the benefits, and in a recent report by Deloitte, 85% of wealth managers believed art should be included as part of a wealth management service. Up from 78% in 2016, and 53% in 20144.

Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions, Global Art Market Disruption: Pushing the Boundaries, March 2022

Inflation Hedge

In addition to its low correlation, contemporary art can also provide a hedge against inflation. As the real value of money decreases over time, the value of assets that appreciate in value can help maintain purchasing power. Art, with its limited supply and historical track record of price appreciation, is one such asset. Furthermore, the increase in the value of art is not limited to just a few top-performing pieces but can be seen across the entire market.

Market Resilience

The historical performance of art during economic recessions highlights its resilience and stability. During the 2008 global financial crisis, for example, contemporary art was amongst the most resilient market sectors, with prices declining by only 10% on average, while other categories such as equities and real estate saw declines of up to 40%5 . Furthermore, following the financial crisis, the art market was swift to recover. According to ArtPrice, global art sales fell by 51% from 2008 to 2009, but rebounded strongly in 2010, with sales increasing by 52% from the previous year6. By 2011, global art sales had surpassed their pre-crisis peak, and the market continued to grow over the following years. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 took a further two years to return to its pre-crash heights.

Whilst the 2008 financial crisis is an individual example that shows art’s low correlation to traditional assets and resilience in the face of market shocks, art’s historical long-term performance emphasises this further. Over a 35-year period, from 1985 to 2020, art had annualized returns of 8.3%. Contemporary Art performed particularly well, with returns of 11.5%7.

Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions, The Global Art Market & COVID-19: Innovating and Adapting, December 2020

Investing in art not only provides the potential for financial gain, but also the enjoyment of owning beautiful pieces of work. With its low correlation to other assets, its ability to hedge against inflation, and its historical resilience during recessions, investing in art can be a smart investment choice for those seeking to balance their portfolios and mitigate risk. The limited supply and growing demand for investment-grade art, even in the face of economic uncertainty, further reinforces its role as a safe haven for investors.

  1. The ArtPrice 100© Index, Jan 2023
  2. ArtPrice, ‘The ArtPrice 100 Index of Blue-chip artists up 3% over 2022’, Jan 2023
  3. Citibank, Global Art Market Disruption Report, March 2022
  4. Deloitte & ArtTactic, Art & Finance Report, 2021
  5. The Deloitte Art & Finance Report, 2015
  6. ArtPrice, Global Art Market Report, 2011
  7. Citibank, Global Art Market & Covid-19, 2020

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