Art as investment

Held on Tuesday, September 29


  • William MacDougall (MacDougall Auctions)

  • Philip Hoffman (The Fine Art Fund)

  • Melanie Gerlis (The Art Newspaper)

  • Dr. Thomas Kellein (Berenberg Bank)

  • Greg B Davies (Barclays)


Andrew Hilton, director of the CSFI, talks to Philip Hoffman (The Fine Art Fund), Melanie Gerlis (The Art Newspaper), William MacDougall (MacDougall Auctions) and Greg B Davies (Barclays) following the Centre's September 29 round-table on art as an asset class.



This is not a subject we have ever touched before, but it is an important one. There is no doubt that the art market is flourishing, and, increasingly, that art (contemporary or otherwise) is coming to be seen as an asset class in its own right – and as a store of value for the new and old-rich. There are art funds, there are art investment advisors – and I am sure there is a lot of flim-flammery and hocus-pocus around.

So, let’s try and sort fact from fiction.

For what I hope will be a tour d’horizon of the art-as-investment space, I am delighted that we have been able to put together a panel that is somewhere between awesome and astonishing:

  • Melanie Gerlis is the art market editor of The Art Newspaper – a position she has held since 2007, when she joined from Finsbury where she spent 10 years advising investment banks, hedge funds and asset managers. She is the author of “Art as an Investment? A survey of comparative assets”, published last year.
  • William MacDougall was (when he was running TRW Investment Management) one of the earliest supporters of the CSFI. He then quit the City, and dived into the deep waters of Russian art. The result of that apparently impulsive move is that MacDougall’s auction house is now up there with the big boys (Sotheby’s and Christie’s) in terms of both the quality of the Russian art that it sells and the value at auction worldwide.
  • Philip Hoffman is founder and CEO of The Fine Art Fund Group, one of the earliest and best-known art hedge funds, which he set up in 2001 after 12 years as a director of Christie’s. It currently has assets under contract in excess of US$350 million.
  • Thomas Kellein is the director of Berenberg Art Consult in Hamburg, which advises the Berenberg Art Capital Fund. He is a former director of the Kunsthalle Basel and the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, as well as of the Chinati Foundation in Texas. He was also a professor of art history at the University of Freiburg.

 And, last but not least, we have Greg Davies who leads a team of behavioural finance specialists at Barclays, and who has written on the impulse that leads high-net worth individuals to buy and to invest in art. (He is also the co-creator of ‘Open Outcry’ – a ‘reality opera’ set in a City trading room, which premiered in 2012.)

I am not sure where this discussion will go. It may be a one-off, or it may help us drill further into niche investment strategies. But I am sure that it will be informative, fascinating and immensely erudite.