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Booty in the eye of the beholder

Friday, November 14, 2014 - 02:28

Andy Warhol's Triple Elvis and Four Marlons sell for $153 million at a record-setting art auction in New York - but do they add up to a sound buy for investors looking to get more from their money than potentially overbought stocks, low-yielding bonds and slipping commodity values? David Pollard reports.

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If, as the song asks, you're feeling lonesome tonight, who better to keep you company than its singer? Or three of him. Or if you feel like a walk on the wild side, four Brandos. They're not cheap. Especially as silk screens by Andy Warhol which went to auction at Christie's in New York. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHRISTIE'S AUCTIONEER, SAYING: ''Sold at 62 million dollars.'' Together 'Triple Elvis' and 'Four Marlons' raised $153 million in a record session. And there seems to be no ceiling, according to Christie's head of contemporary art, Brett Gorvy. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRETT GORVY, CHRISTIE'S INTERNATIONAL HEAD OF POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY ART, SAYING: "The one market that has remained incredibly constant for the past two or three years has been the art market, the global market. And that's something which I think is really driven our prices to the highest level." Life can sometimes be challenging for a super-rich private investor. With stocks looking overbought, bonds offering little return and commodities heading downwards, attractive assets are getting harder to find. Prices here in Nairobi may be rather more modest than in New York, Paris or London. But here too art works are catching the eye of those looking for an alternative investment. Auctioneer Dendy Easton. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DENDY EASTON, AUCTIONEER SAYING: "I think the South African market is obviously very well established as you know and the Nigerian market as well and why? Because both those countries are very rich ..... I think it's wonderful because it's an area that hasn't had the exposure like South Africa has - and quite frankly as far as the quality is concerned, it's just as good." Sotheby's valued African art sales last year at $28 million. And with a burgeoning middle class in Nigeria, South Africa and now, increasingly, Kenya, that number will go up. Art, vintage cars, jewellery - and wine - have all been touted as viable alternative markets. But: caveat emptor, says ETX Capital's Joe Rundle. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF TRADING AT ETX CAPITAL, JOE RUNDLE, SAYING: ''They're very cyclical, they have tendencies to go into bubbles, I mean, and the liquidity is not particularly there. Everyone always talks about wine as a serious investment - I'm not sure it really is as a long-term investment.'' $853 million was bid for all the works together in New York. That's the highest total ever for an art auction - and calms fears that the art market's top-tier bubble might burst - for now.

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Booty in the eye of the beholder

Friday, November 14, 2014 - 02:28