In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Art Markets and Auctions

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews

Art History Art Markets and Auctions
Noah Horowitz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 June 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0006


This article surveys the growing body of literature covering the international art market. Though discussions about collecting and patronage are as old as the market itself, the academic field of study is relatively new and continues to expand rapidly. Gerald Reitlinger’s Economics of Taste remains the foundational historical survey of its kind, and Baumol and Bowen’s Performing Arts: The Economic Dilemma, which looks at the economics of the performing arts, is credited with catalyzing the field of cultural economics (ultimately leading to the founding of The Journal of Cultural Economics in 1977). This has led, in subsequent years, to detailed inquiry into historical market structures and public policy issues. More recently, as the art world has spread globally and sales of modern and contemporary art have reached unprecedented heights, there has been a flood of writing on the investment value of art and on new types of collectors and market practices. The Internet, meanwhile, has enabled scholars and market professionals alike to actively mine the trade for up-to-the-minute data and analytics. This article aims to ground this sprawling debate and begins with an introduction to the literature on art market history and continues with sections on the following: how the market works, investment issues, critical theory, current market issues; plus there is an overview of analytical and research tools. This article should speak to scholars across a variety of disciplines, from art historians, critics, and journalists to economists and sociologists. Certainly one goal of future art market studies is to bridge this gap by providing intelligent economic analysis of the global trade that is equally in tune with the sensibilities of the diverse actors and positions that constitute it.

General Overviews

The essays and collections provided here offer a good introduction to the history of art markets. De Marchi and Goodwin 1999 and North and Ormrod 1998 are two excellent collected volumes, with contributions from a range of leading scholars. De Marchi and Van Miegroet 2006 provides a detailed study of the evolution of market structures from 15th- century Florence through 18th-century Paris. Goodwin 2006 reflects on the evolution of economic discourse around arts and culture, a topic expounded upon in Throsby 2001. Pomian 1990 offers an extensive look at collecting itself, forming a useful supplement to these general overviews.

  • De Marchi, Neil, and Crawford D. W. Goodwin, eds. Economic Engagements with Art. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

    This important volume stems from the conference “Economists and Art, Historically Considered,” held at Duke University in 1998. It blends contributions on historical market structures with articles on economic policy and theory.

  • De Marchi, Neil, and Hans J. Van Miegroet. “The History of Art Markets.” In Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture. Vol. 1. Edited by Victor Ginsburgh and C. D. Throsby, 69–122. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1016/S1574-0676(06)01003-9

    An excellent introductory article on the history of art markets written by two of the most widely published scholars on the subject.

  • Goodwin, Crawford D. W. “Art and Culture in the History of Economic Thought.” In Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture. Vol. 1. Edited by Victor Ginsburgh and C. D. Throsby, 25–68. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1016/S1574-0676(06)01002-7

    An introductory guide to the discussion on art’s role in the market historically.

  • North, Michael, and David Ormrod. Art Markets in Europe: 1400–1800. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

    A collected volume of essays drawn from the Twelfth International Economic History Congress, held in Madrid in August 1998. Contributors include Neil de Marchi, Hans van Miegroet, and Guido Guerzoni.

  • Pomian, Krzysztof. Collectors and Curiosities: Paris and Venice 1500–1800. Translated by Elizabeth Wiles-Portier. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 1990.

    Foundational account and history of collecting as an art. Pomian draws on key sociological debates to ground his subject and offer an intelligent framework for how and why we collect, and how market values, in turn, are ascribed to art.

  • Throsby, David. Economics and Culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    A balanced account of the economics of culture, particularly valuable for its treatment of the disparity between cultural versus economic value.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.