Art investors in '$50,000 to $1m' bracket driving the market

While this week's $119.9m sale of Munch's The Scream hit the headlines, it is investors at the more affordable end of the sector who are propelling the world's art markets.

So says Don Thompson, the author of The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art.

In an interview with US News Thompson explains that $1m is around the limit for investors looking to make serious returns in the coming years.

"The people who invest in art stick in the range of $50,000 to $1 million," Thompson told the publication.

"Basically it's a beauty contest. You're trying to choose an artist who will be more popular five years from now."

And don't be in any doubt as to where the investment is coming from. 

China's share of global sales rose to 30% in 2011, up from 23% in 2010, according to a European Fine Art Foundation report. In the process it overtook the US as the world's largest art market.

The Chinese art and antiques sector grew by 64% in 2011, the report states.

Lotus and Mandarin ducks Zhang Daqian
Zhang Daqian's Lotus and Mandarin ducks

"The increase in the number of Chinese billionaires (and millionaires) has led to an increase in demand for fine art. I've witnessed this myself at art auctions," Carol Marie Boyer, associate professor of finance at Long Island University, told US News.

And it appears that works from their homeland are the biggest draw for Chinese buyers;'s Art Market Trends 2011 report found that six of the 10 best-selling artists last year were Chinese.

Zhang Daqian was the world's top selling artist in 2011, accruing $506.7m in sales. His Chinese compatriot Qi Baishi was second, with figures of $445.1m.

Art buyers with an eye on potential financial rewards down the line should take a look at the pieces we currently have available.

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