The discovery of the notorious trove of 1,200 artworks hidden in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt--a collection passed down from his father who was a Nazi-era art dealer--there has been increasing interest in research into the provenance of potentially Nazi-looted works held in private collections. Whereas the international Washington Principles accord mandates restitution of Nazi-looted artworks held by public institutions, no comparable legal frameworks holds sway over private collections. In the wake of the Gurlitt affair, however, individual collectors are increasingly undertaking their own investigations into the provenance of their works, and a new fund has been established by the German government to assist in such efforts.
Anny Shaw has an interesting examination of the current state of art funds. Although the article suggests that there has been a "proliferation" of art funds in recent years, the field has actually been shrinking. Whereas the "financialization" of art continues apace in other areas -- such as the growth of fine art collateral-based lending -- interest in art funds has largely evaporated. In truth, the concept has several significant drawbacks. Some have to do with the structural features of the market-- particularly the lack of liquidity. The model also overlooks the various ways that collectors derive value from their art. In addition to financial gains at re-sale, collectors enjoy the reputational and social benefits of having an impressive collection (and some even like to look at their artworks!). Art funds reduce the benefits of ownership (actually, fractional ownership) to only a monetary rate of return. For individuals who have the resources to purchase significant works of art and the financial savvy to consider art funds, it makes much more sense to actually collect -- even if prospective financial gain is a key motivation.
Although Instagram undoubtedly has had a huge impact on the art world, the "major sale via Instagram" story has often seemed more myth than reality--with every article citing the time Leonardo DiCaprio made an art fair purchase via Instagram in 2015. However, Bloomberg just published a fascinating article about a $24 million sale of a Basquiat painting of Sugar Ray Robinson stemming directly from a social media post by Brett Gorvy.