Edited by Ruth Towse
Chapter 3: Art Dealers
Olav Velthuis Art dealers mediate supply and demand on the primary and secondary markets for art. In doing so they compete with other intermediaries such as auction houses, or with artists themselves, who sell their work directly out of their studios. The work they sell may range from prints or other multiples worth several hundreds of dollars to multimilliondollar works of art by old and modern masters or contemporary celebrity artists. At the high end of the market, some dealers predominantly sell to a small fixed club of wealthy collectors who have expressed loyalty to them over a long period of time. At the lower end, art dealers may cater to the demand of a relatively anonymous group of buyers who are interested in acquiring a piece for decorative reasons or as a souvenir of a tourist trip. Almost invariably, dealers are small-scale enterprises employing only a few people, with a single owner who also operates as managing director. The rare exceptions are large art dealers in the centres of the global art market, New York and London, who run several exhibition spaces and may have over 50 employees. Apart from labour costs, the main expenses art dealers incur are rent and the inventory they may have in case they sell from stock (Shubik, 2003). Since banks are often reluctant to provide capital to what is considered to be a risky enterprise, many dealers attract capital, for instance to renovate their exhibition space or to add works of art to...
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