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Art Auctions

Author

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  • Ashenfelter, Orley C
  • Graddy, Kathryn

Abstract

Works of art and culture are sold by many means. These include transactions between dealers and their customers, auctions with open outcry, internet auctions, and even, occasionally, sealed bid auctions. However, the standard procedure for establishing art valuations for the most expensive works is still most commonly the English auction, where prices ascend in open bidding. This paper describes how art auctions really work, along with the state of competition between auction houses. For expensive art, competition is dominated by the duopoly of Christie's and Sotheby's. The paper proceeds to describe various interesting features of art auctions, including the declining price anomaly, whether or not auctioneers provide accurate information, and anchoring effects in art auctions. The public auction system provides a valuable method for setting and determining values; it is probable that the inability of auctioneers to capture a significant part of the benefits of the information they produce leads to less use of the auction system than is optimal for society.

Suggested Citation

  • Ashenfelter, Orley C & Graddy, Kathryn, 2019. "Art Auctions," CEPR Discussion Papers 13665, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:13665
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    Other versions of this item:

    • Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2010. "Art Auctions," Working Papers 1212, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Graddy, Kathryn, 2013. "Taste Endures! The Rankings of Roger de Piles (†1709) and Three Centuries of Art Prices," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 73(03), pages 766-791, September.
    2. Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2005. "Anatomy of the Rise and Fall of a Price-Fixing Conspiracy: Auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's," Journal of Competition Law and Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1), pages 3-20.
    3. Ashenfelter, Orley, 1989. "How Auctions Work for Wine and Art," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 23-36, Summer.
    4. Alan Beggs & Kathryn Graddy, 1997. "Declining Values and the Afternoon Effect: Evidence from Art Auctions," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(3), pages 544-565, Autumn.
    5. Alan Beggs & Kathryn Graddy, 2008. "Failure to meet the reserve price: the impact on returns to art," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 32(4), pages 301-320, December.
    6. Alan Beggs & Kathryn Graddy, 2009. "Anchoring Effects: Evidence from Art Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 1027-1039, June.
    7. Jianping Mei & Michael Moses, 2005. "Vested Interest and Biased Price Estimates: Evidence from an Auction Market," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(5), pages 2409-2435, October.
    8. Clare McAndrew & James L Smith & Rex Thompson, 2012. "The impact of reserve prices on the perceived bias of expert appraisals of fine art," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(2), pages 235-252, March.
    9. Graham, Daniel A & Marshall, Robert C, 1987. "Collusive Bidder Behavior at Single-Object Second-Price and English Auctions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(6), pages 1217-1239, December.
    10. Maskin, Eric S & Riley, John G, 1984. "Optimal Auctions with Risk Averse Buyers," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(6), pages 1473-1518, November.
    11. Ashenfelter, Orley & Genesove, David, 1992. "Testing for Price Anomalies in Real-Estate Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 501-505, May.
    12. Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2003. "Auctions and the Price of Art," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(3), pages 763-787, September.
    13. Milgrom, Paul, 1989. "Auctions and Bidding: A Primer," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 3-22, Summer.
    14. Mortensen, Dale T, 1970. "Job Search, the Duration of Unemployment, and the Phillips Curve," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(5), pages 847-862, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alan Beggs & Kathryn Graddy, 2008. "Failure to meet the reserve price: the impact on returns to art," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 32(4), pages 301-320, December.
    2. William N. Goetzmann & Luc Renneboog & Christophe Spaenjers, 2011. "Art and Money," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 222-226, May.
    3. Jofre-Bonet, Mireia & Pesendorfer, Martin, 2014. "Optimal sequential auctions," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 61-71.
    4. Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2002. "Art Auctions: A Survey of Empirical Studies," NBER Working Papers 8997, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Itaya, Jun-ichi & Ursprung, Heinrich W., 2016. "Price and death: modeling the death effect in art price formation," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 431-445.
    6. Calin Valsan & Robert Sproule, 2008. "Reservation Prices And Pre-Auction Estimates: A Study In Abstract Art," The AMFITEATRU ECONOMIC journal, Academy of Economic Studies - Bucharest, Romania, vol. 10(24), pages 257-272, June.
    7. Dakshina Garfield De Silva & Marina Gertsberg & Georgia Kosmopoulou & Rachel Pownall, 2017. "Dealer Networks in the World of Art," Working Papers 198144199, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    8. Jianping Mei & Michael Moses, 2002. "Art as an Investment and the Underperformance of Masterpieces," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1656-1668, December.
    9. Hellmanzik, Christiane, 2016. "Historic art exhibitions and modern - day auction results," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 421-430.
    10. Reto Cueni & Bruno S. Frey, 2014. "Forecasts and Reactivity," CREMA Working Paper Series 2014-10, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    11. Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2003. "Auctions and the Price of Art," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(3), pages 763-787, September.
    12. Frey, Bruno S. & Gallus, Jana, 2014. "Aggregate effects of behavioral anomalies: A new research area," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 8, pages 1-15.
    13. Michael Beckmann, 2004. "Art Auctions and Bidding Rings: Empirical Evidence from German Auction Data," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 28(2), pages 125-141, May.
    14. Hellmanzik, Christiane, 2013. "Democracy and economic outcomes: Evidence from the superstars of modern art," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 58-69.
    15. Seaman, Bruce A., 2009. "Cultural Economics: The State of the Art and Perspectives/Economía de la cultura: estado del arte y perspectivas," Estudios de Economia Aplicada, Estudios de Economia Aplicada, vol. 27, pages 7-32, Abril.
    16. Christiane Hellmanzik, 2009. "Artistic styles: revisiting the analysis of modern artists’ careers," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 33(3), pages 201-232, August.
    17. Michael Hutter & Christian Knebel & Gunnar Pietzner & Maren Schäfer, 2007. "Two games in town: a comparison of dealer and auction prices in contemporary visual arts markets," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 31(4), pages 247-261, December.
    18. Hellmanzik, Christiane, 2010. "Location matters: Estimating cluster premiums for prominent modern artists," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 199-218, February.
    19. Penasse, J.N.G. & Renneboog, L.D.R., 2014. "Bubbles and Trading Frenzies : Evidence from the Art Market," Discussion Paper 2014-046, Tilburg University, Tilburg Law and Economic Center.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Art auctions;

    JEL classification:

    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature

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