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The Smarter Way to Invest in Art

If you’re collecting for the long term, here’s how to get more for your money
Bamborough Castle, a watercolor drawing by J.M.W. Turner, is put on display at Sotheby’s on Nov. 16, 2007.

Bamborough Castle, a watercolor drawing by J.M.W. Turner, is put on display at Sothebys on Nov. 16, 2007.

Photographer: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire via AP Photo

Most people like to look at art, some people like to buy art, and almost no one likes to overpay for art. Yet that’s almost undoubtedly what’s going on in the hottest part of the market: postwar and contemporary art.

Sales of these works have ballooned from $260 million in 1995 to $7.8 billion last year. When a category that spans a mere seven decades accounts for 48 percent of 2014’s total fine art auction market, it’s safe to say that bargains in the field are few and far between.