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“The art market attracts special interest from certain investors, but their biggest complaint is about the need for more analysis,” said business development director of Gabrius, Daniele Liberanome. He believes art dealers should welcome additional attention in their market from people who have traditionally been deterred by the vagaries of the art economy. “It will not harm the trade at all,” said Mr Liberanome. “It will help a lot”.

Gabrius, an international multimedia art group, hope that their indices, which keep subscribers informed about price trends for individual art movements as well as for the market as a whole, will now become the information standard for the art market.

The indices have been developed by two professors at the Yale School of Management, William Goetzmann and Matthew Spiegel, and are based on the prices of single works of art that have been put up at auction more than once in auction houses of comparable size. Gabrius claims that this ‘repeated-sales index’ of approximately 60,000 lots guarantees reliability and is particularly well suited to unusual assets that trade irregularly.

However, stock brokers have been wary about buying art in the past, and Gabrius’s assertions have not met with unanimous acceptance in the art trade.

Leading modern and contemporary art dealer Ivor Braka told the Antiques Trade Gazette that any indices, even ones based on repeated sales, would provide an inaccurate reflection of the market. He said: “Buyers prefer items that are fresh to the market and are prejudiced against buying things that have been seen before. An item that may have sold for £2m one year, will end up going for much less a few years later. Even if it appears again after 10 years, the market has changed so much by then that the previous figures are meaningless anyway.”

Old Master paintings dealer Johnny Van Haeften also expressed doubts. “Indices can give an indication, but can be misleading. The different circumstances present at every auction always prevail,” he said.

He also expressed some concern over traders buying art purely for investment purposes. “Ideally, aesthetics should override financial incentives. However, obviously, it is always worthwhile buying something that will keep its value. What we want to avoid is for the market to become falsely bolstered.”

There are also fears that the addition of art indices on the Bloomberg service is likely to channel speculation into specific sections of the art market. Areas such as contemporary art at present seem more susceptible to investor speculation.

“The modern and contemporary market sees much greater fluctuations than old master prices,” said Van Haeften, “the supply is also more readily available.”

Contemporary art auctions are currently enjoying unprecedented levels of demand.

For Gabrius, supplying the indices for the terminals marks a significant step in their relationship with Bloomberg. They previously provided the financial conglomerate with a weekly programme for their television channel and supplied an art price index for their magazine.

The Bloomberg index may also lead to investment companies looking at art in relation to ‘risk diversification’. This is where investors spread their purchases over different buying sectors, instead of relying solely on the vagaries of stocks and shares.