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Pablo Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger” sold for $180 million in May (image via Wikimedia)

You can lose a lot of money with the wrong art buy — especially if you’re young, naive, and really, really rich.

According to Bloomberg, Citigroup is hoping to prevent such losses by teaching the heirs of its wealthiest bank customers how to invest in art. “You don’t have the birthright to the next generation’s wealth,” Citi Private Bank Managing Director Money Kanagasabapathy explained. “We want to continue to have the relationship with the family.”

In the class, staff from Christie’s guide students through a fake auction catalogue filled with everything from an Andy Warhol polaroid print to a Björk album cover photograph. They learn how to note things like quality, rarity, condition, and provenance. Afterward, they’re able to bid in a mock auction with fake money and have an expert tell them how well they did. At the most recent class, held in Manhattan, attendees from 18 countries engaged in a bidding war for a portrait of Kate Moss by Chuck Close. After it sold for $95,000, Christie’s Vice President Tash Perrin revealed that it didn’t get any bites at its last real auction in 2013.

The session sounds more like a parody of the art world than the real thing, but it reflects just how huge the art market has become. Last year, Artprice reported that $15.2 billion worth of art was sold at auction — a 300% increase from 2004, and a 26% from 2013. In one week alone last November, less than 1,000 collectors spent about $1.5 billion on art. Individual artworks are also fetching higher prices than ever before; last year 125 artworks sold for $10 million or more compared to just 18 in 2005. And in May, a painting by Pablo Picasso sold for roughly $180 million.

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Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

3 replies on “Bank Offers Art-Buying Classes for Heirs and Heiresses”

  1. “You can lose a lot of money with the wrong art buy…”

    If you buy what you like, there is no such thing as the wrong art buy.

  2. i actually want to become a speculative art-buyer for such folks. i made a predictive tool for acquiring not-yet-famous artists. it actually works. i’ve used it myself the few times i had the liquid funds to buy up some art for both beauty and potential. citibank! contact me! email on the grumpyvisualartist blog (google that). or any other corporate art buying program.

  3. As a museum curator and art history instructor, I buy whatever I like and can afford for my personal collection. Is it a poor investment to purchase an interesting or beautiful piece that you and your family enjoy for decades, even if your descendants (and their bankers) don’t make a killing by selling it later?

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