The Gray Market: Why the Art Market Should Heed Warren Buffett’s Warning About ‘Short-Termism’ (and Other Insights)

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal hosted an op-ed from two titans of finance troubled by a danger facing our own industry in only slightly different clothing—and one particularly worth keeping in mind as we roll into Art Basel week.

Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and inarguably one of the most successful investors of all time, teamed up with JP Morgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon to deliver a reasoned plea to keep our eyes on the horizon instead of our own navels. Titled “Short-Termism Is Harming the Economy,” the piece mainly encourages the decision makers at publicly held American companies to quit the practice of forecasting quarterly earnings (i.e. making public declarations about how much money they expect to make in the next three months).

Why? Because in Buffett and Dimon’s experience, “quarterly earnings guidance often leads to an unhealthy focus on short-term profits at the expense of long-term strategy, growth, and sustainability.”

In other words, once you start nailing your business to the cross with hard expectations for the revenue you’ll pile up in the next 13 weeks, it incentivizes everyone to focus on that narrow-minded goal—and ignore the bigger, more meaningful initiatives that would actually add value to the company (and the economy).

Now, with the exception of Sotheby’s, most art sellers are privately held companies that don’t have to worry about the negative effects of quarterly guidance. At the same time, it would be a mistake to assume that they can’t still tumble head first into the spike pit of short-termism. And one of the strongest reasons why is the importance of art fairs in the industry’s concept of success. Read more

2018-10-23T20:46:27+00:00