Former New York University Prof. Michael Moses, who co-founded an art investment index in 2002, says over a decade of data shows that artwork can yield better returns than equities.

And investors don’t have to focus on so-called “high art” to profit, he adds.

“You don’t have to be super wealthy and only buy the most expensive paintings to get the best returns,” says Moses, who has also taught at the Wharton School of Business. “It turns out that low-priced art purchased at auction outperforms high-priced art at auction.”

With compound annual returns of 7.4 percent, art exceeded S&P 500 returns of 7.0 percent over the past 10 years as of 2012, according to the Mei Moses Fine Art Index.

Despite a decline of 3.28 percent in the index in 2012, Moses believes art is also a good wealth preserver.

“Art is more a part of people’s wealth portfolio on a worldwide basis now than it’s ever been. One of the beauties of art is it has good returns and it’s great to look at and fun to collect, such as talking to the artists. Art has decent financial returns,” he said.

Back To 1810

Developed by Moses and his partner Jianping Mei, the indices, which is not traded, is modeled after the Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index published by Standard and Poor’s.

“We use a similar methodology. One of the key facts we find is that art is very democratic,” Moses said.

The Mei Moses Fine Art Index tracks the art market going back to 1810 and gauges future values and compares returns to more traditional financial indices.