Edited by Ruth Towse
Chapter 4: Art Markets
Olav Velthuis On art markets, suppliers and buyers of works of art exchange cultural objects such as paintings, antiquities or sculptures. Within some market segments, such as the market for contemporary art, the objects are directly supplied by the artist, who sells them out of his studio or through a gallery. In other cases, for instance within the market for antiquities or for works of art by deceased artists, suppliers are private collectors or public institutions who want to part with these pieces. Often, intermediaries such as auction houses, art dealers or art consultants are involved to match supply and demand. In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available, the size of the art market was estimated to be €48.1 billion worldwide. This figure, which includes both dealer and auction sales and comprises fine art as well as decorative arts and antiques, was the highest in the history of art markets. Geographically, the art market is dominated by the USA, with a market share of 41 per cent, followed by the UK with a market share of 30 per cent. After World War II, a division of labour emerged between the art capitals of these two countries: in New York the market for Impressionism, modern and contemporary art is concentrated, while London has developed a comparative advantage when it comes to Old Masters. France, until World War II the centre of the art market, has recently been surpassed by China as the third-largest art market (the latter’s market...
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