The Art Market:
The Structure of the Industry
and Economic Network


"Capital goes where it's wanted, and stays where it's well treated." --Walter Wriston, former CEO of Citibank


Art Market Concentration in Nodal International Cities

  • Art market is a network of international economic activity in major world cities: New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Geneva, Milan, Tokyo, Hong Kong.
  • Art market exists only in cities with financial and cultural capital that attracts ongoing concentration of market activity. (See Wriston quote.)
  • The U.S. leads the world market for contemporary art with 50% of sales.
  • Aggregate sales and pricing across the art market from all sources (galleries, dealers, private sales, auctions) are at present impossible to quantify, but there are clear trends and indicators. Using worldwide auction sales and prices as an indicator of increasing market activity, contemporary art prices were up 22% in 2003. In contrast, the old master category was up only 5%. (Artprice, Art Market Trends, 2003)
  • Current art market is being driven by influx of a new demographic of younger buyers and collectors (good for the future of the artworld!)

Takashi Murakami, Miss Ko, 1996. $567,500, Christie's New York, May 14, 2003


Mark Rothko No. 9 (White and Black on Wine) 1958. Christies, New York, May, 2003, $16,359,500


Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1986. $3,089,500 at Sotheby's New York, May 15, 2002


Picasso, Boy with Pipe, 1905. Sold at Sotheby's, New York, May 2004, $104.2 million (est. $70 M)


The Economic Actors and Institutions in the Artworld Economic Network

The art world is structured as an interdependent network of social-economic actors who cooperate--often contentiously or unknowingly--to enact and perpetuate the art world, while at the same time negotiating kinds and levels of cooperation in a mutually understood careerist and competitive context.

The Major Actors, INstitutions, and Nodes in the Network

  • Artists
  • Dealers and Galleries
  • Collectors, Buyers (individual, corporate, institutional)
  • Auction houses
  • Art consultants and advisors
  • Art investment services and funds
    • Many investment banks rolling this into Wealth Management services
  • Museums and all museum professionals
  • Art media: press, magazines and journals, websites
  • Art Fairs
  • Biennials, international art forums like Documenta
  • Art market services (e.g., Artnet, information aggregators, databases)

Mapping All the Artworld Economic Nodes:
The Hidden Size of the Art Economy

  • art schools, colleges, and professional art teachers
  • artists
  • art historians and academic art theorists
  • independent curators
  • art critics, art writers
  • art media publishers, magazine editors and professional production staff
  • book publishing industry for art books, monographs, museum exhibitions
  • professional associations for artists, educators, and dealers
  • art dealers and galleries
  • curators, museum directors, other museum professionals
  • public and private art collection managers
  • international art fair organizers, corporations, supporters, funders
  • managers and organizations for international art exhibitions (biennials, Documenta, etc.)
  • art collectors
  • art collections and collection management (private, corporate, institutional)
  • art patrons, donors, public art funders
  • private arts support foundations, both direct grants to artists and funding of art organizations (museums, non-profit spaces, university galleries, etc.) (connected to general economy through invested endowments and private contributions)
  • all staff levels in art funding organizations: public (local, state, and federal government) and private (foundations, corporate art funding)
  • auction houses and art business professionals in the auction companies
  • art consultants
  • art investment services: art banking, art advisors, wealth management serices
  • art insurance companies
  • art market services: data companies and publishers, online subscription data services
  • art advertising, PR, and art marketing specialists
  • directors of non-profit and alternative art spaces
  • art materials suppliers and materials fabricators
  • conservators, art materials specialists
  • museum and collections security systems, climate control, archiving
  • art specialist moving, handling, installations, storage, insurance

Martin Irvine
irvinem@georgetown.edu
© 2004-2009
All educational uses permitted with attribution and link to this page.