Global warming is making the ocean slowly rise. There will be less and less dry land. Yet people still flock to the seashore at the edge of the land to watch the waves from their newly remodeled houses and to swim at chic resorts. Something like this is happening in the art market too.
Each year more excellent art is produced (like water rising) and each year museums and collectors flock to purchase the art. They not only buy the new art, they also bid up the price of old art and complete museums to house it. The reasons are many. Art collecting has a cache. And when wealthy people grow old some of them want to ensure that the art they enjoyed will be available to the public after they die. Some donate to museums, others found new museums. And there lies the rising sea analogy.
Just as there is a limited amount of land that is not under water, there is a limited amount of land that is not museums. Can you imagine that 50 years hence a Rembrandt will not be important? A Gauguin not a masterpiece? A Warhol relegated to the garage? Not a chance! They will all be in museums or well displayed in private houses. And in those 50 years from now many new great artists will have been recognized and valued. They will be in museums too.
Museums are buildings. They need maintenance. New roofs periodically. Night watchmen. Day watchmen. Heating. In the future people will be spending more and more resources on paying to house the art. This investment in culture could be just what is needed to change politics for the better. We may find that resources previously spent for over seas national defense will be needed instead to protect and display the artistic treasures. The military budget will be cut or perhaps there will be military run art installations. Other effects may be that people live in smaller houses so that they can support the larger museums.
If the world population stops growing – and recent estimates expect a leveling off at just around 9 billion – the eventual consequence will one day be that the art produced by previous generations will overflow the capacity of the keepers of art.
The lesson for hat lovers? Be thankful that hats are enjoyed and fully consumed today and that few are placed in museums.