Fellow grad student, Bed Mandel, has a paper coming out in AER ((holy shit!)) called Art as an Investment and Conspicuous Consumption Good (pdf):
This paper provides a simple and empirically plausible model of artworks as investment vehicles. It reconciles the observation that average financial returns for collectibles are low and volatile with the theory of consumption-based asset pricing. Art assets are appealing both for their ability to transfer consumption over time and their use as signals of wealth, as in the literature on the demand for luxuries. Adding art value into utility, returns also reflect this ‘conspicuous consumption’ dividend; as a result, average financial returns are low. Risk premia for artworks are predicted to be modest or even negative.
He cites Veblan, but the best line is the last:
In a boast, a friend once told me that his art was a better investment than all other assets, including financial securities and real estate. Accounting for his utility in telling me so, that is indeed likely.
Oh, and Prof. Kling, you’ll notice equations 5-7 are Euler equations. I defy you make the claim that Ben is just “producing stochastic calculus porn to satisfy [his] urge for mathematical masturbation.” I’d say you actually learn something about Art looking at those equations.
BTW, Ben is on the job market this year. Snap him up before its too late!