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Fine Art of Investment

When it comes to sinking your money into the art market, caution is critical.

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This story appears in the May 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Which is the better investment--a $100,000 Jasper Johns acquired at a prestigious Manhattan art gallery or a $1,000 painting purchased from an undiscovered artist on a SoHo street corner?

With the recession battering prices of everything from luxury homes to exotic cars, it's tempting to think that great art is out there waiting to be snapped up at bargain prices. And, to some extent, that's true: Annual sales of contemporary art plunged 75 percent at Sotheby's and Christie's evening auctions in 2009, Bloomberg reported, down from $1.97 billion in 2008 and a record $2.4 billion in 2007. (Recent auctions, such as the Sotheby's sale in February that saw a Giacometti sculpture fetch a record-setting $104.3 million, indicate that the art market may be starting to recover.)

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