What can art tell us about the economy?

A visitor looks at an artwork by Lily van der Stokker and 'With every stencil a revolution, one after another' by Latifa Echakhch in the gallery section of Art Basel on June 18, 2014 in Basel, Switzerland.

It's a busy time of year for art collectors. Art Basel, one of the world’s biggest art shows in Switzerland, wrapped up a week ago. Now, London is in the middle of a few big art sales.

Auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's are selling impressionist and modern art one week, post-war and contemporary art the next. But no matter what era the art is from, people from all over the world are paying a whole lot of money for these pieces.

"By looking at what types of artists are selling well in any particular part of the world, you actually glean a lot of helpful information about how successful those parts of the world feel," says Kelly Crow, reporter for The Wall Street Journal. "When they feel successful they buy art. It’s a tried and true thing we’ve seen, especially in the last ten years."

Many of these London art bidders are participating by phone. And a lot of those calls are coming from Asia.

"When China wants to spend some serious money, they have it," says Crow. "And they certainly are interested in art more than they were a few years ago."

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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