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: Ruth Towse (ed.), A Handbook of Cultural Economics, Second Edition, chapter 2, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    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?," LIDAM Reprints CORE 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. R. Preston McAfee & Daniel C. Quan & Daniel R. Vincent, 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 2013/1655, 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. Campbell, John Y., 1987. "Stock returns and the term structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 373-399, June.
    17. Riley, John G & Samuelson, William F, 1981. "Optimal Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 381-392, June.
    18. David Genesove, 1995. "Search at Wholesale Auto Auctions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, 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. Steven T. Buccola, 1982. "Price Trends at Livestock Auctions," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 64(1), pages 63-69.
    35. Neil Gandal, 1997. "Sequential Auctions of Interdependent Objects: Israeli Cable Television Licenses," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 227-244, September.
    36. 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. 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.
    2. Emiel Maasland & Sander Onderstal, 2006. "Going, Going, Gone! A Swift Tour of Auction Theory and Its Applications," De Economist, Springer, vol. 154(3), pages 481-481, September.
    3. 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.
    4. Zhitkov, Konstantin & Ratnikova, Tatiana, 2014. "The construction of hedonic price indices for fauvists’ paintings," Applied Econometrics, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), vol. 35(3), pages 59-85.
    5. Eiichiro Kazumori & John McMillan, 2003. "Selliing Online Versus Offline," Levine's Working Paper Archive 506439000000000254, David K. Levine.
    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.
    7. José Canals-Cerdá, 2012. "The value of a good reputation online: an application to art auctions," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 36(1), pages 67-85, February.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. 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.
    2. Mezzetti, Claudio, 2008. "Aversion to Price Risk and the Afternoon Effect," Economic Research Papers 269855, University of Warwick - Department of Economics.
    3. Tibor Neugebauer & Paul Pezanis-Christou, 2003. "Bidding at Sequential First-Price Auctions with(out) Supply Uncertainty: A Laboratory Analysis," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 558.03, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
    4. Gerard Marty & Raphaele Preget, 2007. "A Socio-economic Analysis of French Public Timber Sales," Working Papers - Cahiers du LEF 2007-03, Laboratoire d'Economie Forestiere, AgroParisTech-INRA.
    5. Rosato, Antonio, 2014. "Loss Aversion in Sequential Auctions: Endogenous Interdependence, Informational Externalities and the "Afternoon Effect"," MPRA Paper 56824, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Sanna Laksa & Daniel Marszalec, 2020. "Morning-Fresh: Declining Prices and the Right-to-Choose in a Faroese Fish Market," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-1141, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
    7. Neugebauer, Tibor & Pezanis-Christou, Paul, 2007. "Bidding behavior at sequential first-price auctions with(out) supply uncertainty: A laboratory analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 55-72, May.
    8. Ginsburgh, V. & van Ours, J.C., 2003. "How to Organize Sequential Auctions : Results of a Natural Experiment by Christie's," Discussion Paper 2003-25, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    9. Lucio Picci & Antonello Scorcu, 2003. "Bidders' and Sellers' Strategies in Sequential Auctions. New Evidence about the Afternoon Effect," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 163-178, June.
    10. Dejan Trifunovic, 2014. "Sequential Auctions And Price Anomalies," Economic Annals, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Belgrade, vol. 59(200), pages 7-42, January –.
    11. Gerard J. van den Berg & Jan C. van Ours & Menno P. Pradhan, 2001. "The Declining Price Anomaly in Dutch Dutch Rose Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1055-1062, September.
    12. Tibor Neugebauer, 2005. "Bidding Strategies Of Sequential First Price Auctions Programmed By Experienced Bidders," Experimental 0503007, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Victor Ginsburgh & Jianping Mei & Michael Moses, 2006. "On the computation of art indices in art," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/7290, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    14. Stuart Kells, 2001. "Prices In Sequential Auctions: Preliminary Evidence From Australian Rare Book Auctions," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 820, The University of Melbourne.
    15. Olivier Chanel & Stéphanie Vincent, 2004. "Computing price trends in sequential auctions," Recherches économiques de Louvain, De Boeck Université, vol. 70(4), pages 443-460.
    16. Stuart Kells, 2003. "Explaining The Breadth Of Expert Estimate Ranges In Auctions Of Rare Books," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 873, The University of Melbourne.
    17. Marinelli, Nicoletta & Palomba, Giulio, 2011. "A model for pricing Italian Contemporary Art paintings at auction," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 212-224, May.
    18. 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.
    19. Pitchik, Carolyn, 2009. "Budget-constrained sequential auctions with incomplete information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 928-949, July.
    20. J. Reiß & Jens Schöndube, 2010. "First-price equilibrium and revenue equivalence in a sequential procurement auction model," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 43(1), pages 99-141, April.

    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.

    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 bibliographic 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.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: the person in charge (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

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

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.