Why Billionaires Like Jeff Bezos Invest Millions In Contemporary Art

Why Billionaires Like Jeff Bezos Invest Millions In Contemporary Art

In the 1987 movie “Wall Street”, Michael Douglas played the role of Gordon Gekko, a high-powered and ruthless corporate raider. Charlie Sheen portrayed Bud Fox, an up-and-coming Wall Street stockbroker who eventually became one of Gordon Gekko’s stock traders. There’s a scene in the movie where Gekko talked about his painting by Spanish painter, Joan Miro (1893-1983). The painting is “Paysage”, an oil on canvas from 1974. Referring to the Miro, Gekko said to Fox, 

“This painting here. I bought it ten years ago for $60,000. I could sell it today for $600,000. The illusion has become real and the more real it becomes the more desperate they want it. Capitalism at its finest.”

Image source: Source: 20th Century Fox

Fine art can be seen throughout the movie on the walls of the wealthy. Some notable artists represented in “Wall Street” were:

  • Jean Dubuffet
  • Lucas Samaras
  • Jim Dine
  • Robert Mirmelin
  • Keith Haring
  • Julian Schnabell
  • James Rosenquist

But it’s not just the fictional super-rich of the 1980s that invest in fine art. Two notable real-life standouts today are Robert Soros and Amazon.com Inc. AMZN founder Jeff Bezos. Soros is the founder of Soros Capital Management and the eldest son of billionaire investor George Soros, who became known for short-selling the British Pound in 1992. Jeff Bezos has been making his fortune with the company he started, Amazon.

ARTnews.com reported that the same year Bezos became the first person worth more than $200 billion, he was also revealed to have been an art collector. An Ed Ruscha painting titled “Hurting the Word Radio #2” (1964) sold for $52.5 million at a Christie’s auction in November 2019 to an anonymous phone bidder, setting a record for the artist. The anonymous buyer turned out to be Bezos, according to the Baer Faxt newsletter, which reported that the billionaire also purchased Kerry James Marshall’s “Vignette 19” (2014) at a Sotheby’s auction for $18.5 million.

So why has there been so much interest in fine art with the super-wealthy, like George Soros and Jeff Bezos—just to name a couple? 

Contemporary art prices actually outpaced the S&P 500 by nearly three times from 1995 to 2020. Contemporary art has also appreciated faster than equities, REITs and even gold during periods of high inflation. So it makes perfect sense that those with the means to invest in multi-million-dollar works of art are doing just that. 

The average investor, however, may find it difficult—if not impossible—to invest in artwork valued in the millions of dollars. To alleviate this challenge, there are new startups that allow investors to purchase “shares” of fine art for a minimal investment. These works are securely stored while they appreciate in value, then later sold and the proceeds distributed to shareholders.

Regular, everyday people can now invest in fine art, along with billionaires like George Soros and Jeff Bezos. 

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Photo by Hayk_Shalunts on Shutterstock

Posted In: Alternative investmentsartGeorge SorosJeff BezosRobert SorosSoros Capital ManagementMarkets

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