High Art down Home: An Economic Ethnography of a Local Art Market

Overview

There is, perhaps, no market commodity in the world whose value is so elusive as a work of art. The costs of production, materials, and labor have nothing to do with fixing its price. Although a piece of art is an archetypally symbolic good, its economic worth depends upon an extraordinarily arbitrary and ephemeral array of social and cultural actors. How, then, do the many artists, collectors, dealers, and curators whose lives and livelihoods are so intimately affected by the valuation of art manage to cope with...
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Overview

There is, perhaps, no market commodity in the world whose value is so elusive as a work of art. The costs of production, materials, and labor have nothing to do with fixing its price. Although a piece of art is an archetypally symbolic good, its economic worth depends upon an extraordinarily arbitrary and ephemeral array of social and cultural actors. How, then, do the many artists, collectors, dealers, and curators whose lives and livelihoods are so intimately affected by the valuation of art manage to cope with such an intangible market? To answer this question, Stuart Plattner eschews the spotlights and media-hype of glitzy New York galleries, and focuses instead upon the more localized, and much more typical, world of the St. Louis art scene. What emerges is the most comprehensive description ever published of a contemporary regional avant-garde center, where noble aesthetic ambitions compete with the exigencies of economic survival. Plattner's skillful use of in-depth interviews enables the market's key participants to speak for themselves, giving voice to the many frustrations and rewards, motivations and constraints that influence their interactions with their work, the market, and each other. Ultimately it becomes clear that, in various and diverse ways, they are all tacitly invested - psychologically, economically, and socially - in the mystification of value of the work of art. With refreshing realism and honesty, Plattner develops a finely textured and sympathetic portrait of a unique kind of economic community, one whose very existence is staked on the paradox of art as commodity.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226670843
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
1 Introduction 1
2 The Rise of the Modern Art Market 27
3 The St. Louis Metropolitan Area 48
4 Artists 78
5 Dealers 124
6 Collectors 164
7 Conclusion 194
App. 1 Glossary of Art Speech 205
App. 2 A Note on Art and Craft 207
App. 3 Art as Investment 209
App. 4 The Influence of the Japanese on Auction Prices 213
App. 5 Statistical Comparisons among the Largest Metropolitan Areas 214
App. 6 Art in America and Local Gallery Guide Listings 220
App. 7 Secondary Skills Necessary for a Professional Artist 221
App. 8 Gender and Teaching Positions 223
Notes 227
References 241
Index 247
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