IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/8997.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Art Auctions: A Survey of Empirical Studies

Author

Listed:
  • Orley Ashenfelter
  • Kathryn Graddy

Abstract

This paper contains a review of the burgeoning research that has been designed to shed light on how the art auction system actually works and what it indicates about price formation. First, we find that in recent years returns on art assets appear to be little different from returns on other assets. In addition, some researchers have found that because of the weak correlation between art asset returns with other returns, there may be a case for the inclusion of art assets in a diversified portfolio. Second, we find evidence of several anomalies in art market pricing. The evidence clearly suggests that, contrary to the view of the art trade, 'masterpieces' underperform the market. In addition, there is considerable evidence that there are fairly long periods in which art prices may diverge across geographic areas and even auction houses. Third, we review the public record of the criminal trial of Sotheby's former Chairman, who was accused of price fixing, to show how the collusion with Christie's, the other great public auction house, was actually engineered. Contrary to the way the proceeds from the settlement of the civil suit in this case were distributed, we show that buyers were almost certainly not injured by the collusion, but that sellers were. In addition, based on the public record of settlement, it appears that the plaintiffs in the civil suit were very handsomely repaid for their injury. Finally, we review the extensive research on the effects of the auction institution on price formation. There is now considerable theoretical research on strategic behavior in auctions, much of it in response to empirical findings, and we review three key findings. First, the evidence suggests that art experts provide extremely accurate predictions of market prices, but that these predictions do not optimally process the publicly available information. Second, high reserve prices, and the resulting high unsold ('buy-in') rates are best explained as optimal search in the face of stochastic demand. Third, extensive research has documented that the prices of identical objects are more likely to decline than to increase when multiple units are sold, and this has led to considerable theoretical research. Subsequent empirical research has tended to document declining demand prices even when the objects are imperfect substitutes.

Suggested Citation

  • Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2002. "Art Auctions: A Survey of Empirical Studies," NBER Working Papers 8997, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8997
    Note: AP IO LE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8997.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jane Black & David de Meza, 1992. "Systematic Price Differences Between Successive Auctionsare no Anomaly," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(4), pages 607-628, December.
    2. Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2011. "Art Auctions," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Cultural Economics, Second Edition, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
      • Orley Ashenfelter & Kathryn Graddy, 2010. "Art Auctions," Working Papers 1212, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    3. Frey, Bruno S. & Eichenberger, Reiner, 1995. "On the rate of return in the art market: Survey and evaluation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(3-4), pages 528-537, April.
    4. Buelens, Nathalie & Ginsburgh, Victor, 1993. "Revisiting Baumol's 'art as floating crap game'," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 1351-1371, October.
    5. Ashenfelter, Orley, 1989. "How Auctions Work for Wine and Art," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 23-36, Summer.
    6. 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.
    7. Victor A. Ginsburgh, 1998. "Absentee Bidders and the Declining Price Anomaly in Wine Auctions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1302-1331, December.
    8. BAUWENS, Luc & GINSBURGH, Victor, 2000. "Art experts and auctions are pre-sale estimates unbiased and fully informative?," CORE Discussion Papers RP 1485, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    9. Lusht, Kenneth M, 1994. "Order and Price in a Sequential Auction," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 259-266, May.
    10. Bernhardt, Dan & Scoones, David, 1994. "A Note on Sequential Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 653-657, June.
    11. Vanderporten, Bruce, 1992. "Timing of Bids at Pooled Real Estate Auctions," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 255-267, September.
    12. McAfee, R Preston & Quan, Daniel C & Vincent, Daniel R, 2002. "How to Set Minimum Acceptable Bids, with an Application to Real Estate Auctions," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 391-416, December.
    13. Victor Ginsburgh & Pierre-Michel Menger, 1996. "Economics of the Arts: Selected essays," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/152420, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    14. Gale Ian L. & Hausch Donald B., 1994. "Bottom-Fishing and Declining Prices in Sequential Auctions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 318-331, November.
    15. Baumol, William J, 1986. "Unnatural Value: Or Art Investment as Floating Crap Game," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 10-14, May.
    16. Chanel, O. & Gerard-Varet, L.A., 1996. "Auction Theory and Practice Evidence from the Market for Jewellery," G.R.E.Q.A.M. 96b05, Universite Aix-Marseille III.
    17. Campbell, John Y., 1987. "Stock returns and the term structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 373-399, June.
    18. David Genesove, 1995. "Search at Wholesale Auto Auctions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 23-49.
    19. Anderson, Robert C, 1974. "Paintings as an Investment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 12(1), pages 13-26, March.
    20. Engelbrecht-Wiggans, Richard, 1994. "Sequential auctions of stochastically equivalent objects," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 44(1-2), pages 87-90.
    21. Olivier Chanel & Louis-André Gérard-Varet & Victor Ginsburgh, 1996. "The relevance of hedonic price indices," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 20(1), pages 1-24, March.
    22. Horstmann, Ignatius J & LaCasse, Chantale, 1997. "Secret Reserve Prices in a Bidding Model with a Resale Option," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 663-684, September.
    23. Balvers, Ronald J, 1990. "Variability and the Duration of Search," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 31(3), pages 747-751, August.
    24. 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.
    25. Ross, Myron H & Zondervan, Scott, 1989. "Capital Gains and the Rate of Return on a Stradivarius," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 27(3), pages 529-540, July.
    26. Goetzmann, William N, 1993. "Accounting for Taste: Art and the Financial Markets over Three Centuries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1370-1376, December.
    27. Milgrom, Paul R & Weber, Robert J, 1982. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1089-1122, September.
    28. Gale, I. & Hausch, D., 1992. "Bottom-Fishing and Declining Prices in Sequential Auctions," Working papers 9215, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    29. repec:feb:framed:00135 is not listed on IDEAS
    30. McAfee R. Preston & Vincent Daniel, 1993. "The Declining Price Anomaly," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 191-212, June.
    31. Vincent Daniel R., 1995. "Bidding Off the Wall: Why Reserve Prices May Be Kept Secret," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 575-584, April.
    32. Pesando, James E, 1993. "Art as an Investment: The Market for Modern Prints," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1075-1089, December.
    33. Stein, John Picard, 1977. "The Monetary Appreciation of Paintings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(5), pages 1021-1035, October.
    34. Gandal, Neil, 1997. "Sequential Auctions of Interdependent Objects: Israeli Cable Television Licenses," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 227-244, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Emiel Maasland & Sander Onderstal, 2006. "Going, Going, Gone! A Swift Tour of Auction Theory and its Applications," De Economist, Springer, vol. 154(2), pages 197-249, June.
    2. Zhitkov, Konstantin & Ratnikova, Tatiana, 2014. "The construction of hedonic price indices for fauvists’ paintings," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 35(3), pages 59-85.
    3. Tekindor, Arzu Aysin & McCracken, Vicki A., 2012. "Uniqueness in Art Market: Specialization in Visual Art," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124922, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    4. Guido Candela & Paolo Figini & Antonello Scorcu, 2004. "Price Indices for Artists – A Proposal," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 28(4), pages 285-302, November.
    5. Marilena Biey & Roberto Zanola, 2005. "The Market for Picasso Prints: A Hybrid Model Approach," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 29(2), pages 127-136, May.
    6. Stefan Weishaar, 2007. "CO 2 emission allowance allocation mechanisms, allocative efficiency and the environment: a static and dynamic perspective," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 29-70, August.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8997. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: () or (Joanne Lustig). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.