Three lucky New Yorkers unwittingly landed potential windfalls when they bought grafitti-style artworks, priced at $60 each, from a Central Park stall this past October. Unbeknownst to them, the canvasses were by renowned, reclusive British street artist Banksy, whose works can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction. Not all art collectors—professional or just passing through—will see that unexpectedly big a return from investing in fine art, but there is money to be made. Just not very quickly.
Like antiques, art is an investment for the long term. And it's big business, worthy of its own index, the Mei Moses family of fine art indexes of art values. But according to Michael Moses, a founder of both the index and Beautiful Asset Advisors, art investing is not just for the very rich. "There's a painting for every purse," he recently told CNBC, adding that low-priced art tends to outperform more costly works. Someone with a $500,000 portfolio could consider putting 10 to 20 percent in illiquid assets, including art, he said.