The Rise of Contemporary Art Markets
A Short Essay on the Art Market
To talk about the art market, we must first try to understand the role the art market plays in the sale of contemporary art. The relationship between individuals with an interest in art is key to understanding the circumstances which contribute to the art market and the divide between art's value as a liquid asset and art's intrinsic value.
The art market is a system that facilitates the primary and secondary sale and purchase of contemporary art and other cultural objects. The transition from the artist-patron model before the 18th century, to current conditions in the art market, has been a gradual transformation with globalization playing a key role in the way art is valued and invested in.
Nearly all modern fine art institutions were established in the eighteenth century [Shiner: 88] and centred on art's value as a marker of progress through Eurocentric ideals. Public art museums played a key role in the collection and dissemination of art, acting as signs of authority and signifiers of cultural progress through Eurocentric views.
With the surge of popularity in biennales and explosion of art fairs around the globe, the influence of public art museums has shifted to the power of private collectors. Today, public museums are not always welcome on the market, since permanent collections stop the free flow of the art trade[Belting: 68]. In a contemporary globalized world, museums compete with biennales and art fairs as cultural indicators of influence. While art fairs play a direct role in the trade of art, and the ability to influence demand, biennales contribute to the value of an artist's work in the art market, by reputation.
The transparency of market forces seen through the dramatization of unprecedented auction sales stands in contrast to the museum; "...the museum space leaves the audience unaware of the economic conditions behind the works in an exhibition" [Belting: 65]. Consequently, resulting in a division that fuels the distance between art as a form of cultural expression and art as a commodity.
This division is examined and discussed in the video The Art Market is Less Ethical than the Stock Market. In this lively debate, a panel of experts ( artist, auctioneer, art critic and dealers) talk about the commodification of art and its intrinsic value. What unfolds is a behind-the-scenes look at market betrayals, manipulation and the need for transparency in the art market.
In the video NEW Art & Finance Maastricht 2013 - Fragmentation of players in Art & Finance, we are introduced to a surprising list of players in the art market; including the Art Fund Group, Sotheby's, Deutsche Bank and Gagosian Gallery. What can we take away from this menagerie of players with an interest in art for its value within the current economic system?
Anton Vidokle suggests the economy produced by the circulation and distribution of artworks in the early nineteenth and twentieth century was entirely controlled by others, whether under capitalist or communist regimes and that this relationship allowed artists to focus on creating rather than selling. In Candace Worth's short ten minute TEDx talk, she relays an example of the transactional relationship between the artist, the curator / dealer and the client. What is suggested by this unfolding tale is that the artist was the last voice on the suggested value of their work, leaving us to wonder how common it is for artists to be implicit in the current art market system.
Fragmentation Of Players In Art & Finance
The Art Market Is Less Ethical Than The Stock Market
- YouTube,. 'Defining Value In Today's Contemporary Art Market: Candace Worth At Tedxchelsea'. N. p., 2015. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
- YouTube,. 'Art & Finance Maastricht 2013 - Fragmentation Of Players In Art & Finance'. N. p., 2015. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
- E-flux.com,. 'Art Without Market, Art Without Education: Political Economy Of Art | E-Flux'. N. p., 2015. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
- YouTube,. 'The Art Market Is Less Ethical Than The Stock Market 1/13-Intelligence Squared U.S.'. N. p., 2015. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
- Hans Belting "Contemporary Art as Global Art" The Global Art World (2009) pp38-73 (PDF)
- Frank Vande Veire "The Fetish Character of the Work of Art and Its Secret" Drunk on Capitalism. An Interdisciplinary Reflection on Market Economy, Art and Science, Art, Human Action + Society 11 (PDF)
- Larry Shiner "The Invention of Art; A Cultural History" The University of Chicago Press, 2001