Wary of the stock market? Invest in fine art instead


As investors hold off on putting their bucks back in stocks, the art market is newly attractive. Wes Cowan, who owns an Ohio gallery and is an expert on two of the greatest TV shows in the history of mankind, History Detectives and Antiques Roadshow, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that for a recent auction of American and European paintings, he got 1,000 registered bidders for something that used to attract only around 700.

In 2008, the value of the art market decreased 4.5%, while Standard & Poor's 500 index went down 37%. Like gold prices, the art market has shown itself to be steadier than the stock market. But over two decades, stocks delivered more for their investors. They just weren't as solid, as last fall showed us.

Further attracting bear investors, art prices are deeply discounted right now, as galleries struggle to hook collectors. Sales are down, as they are everywhere, but analysts say that if you plan to hang onto your artwork for many years, an auctioneer can be a safer bookie than your stockbroker.