Talking Prices: Symbolic Meanings of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art

Talking Prices: Symbolic Meanings of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art

by Olav Velthuis
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0691121664

ISBN-13: 9780691121666

Pub. Date: 07/05/2005

Publisher: Princeton University Press

How do dealers price contemporary art in a world where objective criteria seem absent? Talking Prices is the first book to examine this question from a sociological perspective. On the basis of a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data, including interviews with art dealers in New York and Amsterdam, Olav Velthuis shows how contemporary art galleries

Overview

How do dealers price contemporary art in a world where objective criteria seem absent? Talking Prices is the first book to examine this question from a sociological perspective. On the basis of a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data, including interviews with art dealers in New York and Amsterdam, Olav Velthuis shows how contemporary art galleries juggle the contradictory logics of art and economics. In doing so, they rely on a highly ritualized business repertoire. For instance, a sharp distinction between a gallery's museumlike front space and its businesslike back space safeguards the separation of art from commerce.

Velthuis shows that prices, far from being abstract numbers, convey rich meanings to trading partners that extend well beyond the works of art. A high price may indicate not only the quality of a work but also the identity of collectors who bought it before the artist's reputation was established. Such meanings are far from unequivocal. For some, a high price may be a symbol of status; for others, it is a symbol of fraud.

Whereas sociological thought has long viewed prices as reducing qualities to quantities, this pathbreaking and engagingly written book reveals the rich world behind these numerical values. Art dealers distinguish different types of prices and attach moral significance to them. Thus the price mechanism constitutes a symbolic system akin to language.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691121666
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/05/2005
Series:
Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology Series
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.34(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Graphsix
Acknowledgmentsxi
Introduction1
Chapter 1The Architecture of the Art Market21
Chapter 2Exchanging Meaning53
Chapter 3Promoters versus Parasites77
Chapter 4Determinants of Prices97
Chapter 5The Art of Pricing116
Chapter 6Stories of Prices132
Chapter 7Symbolic Meanings of Prices158
Chapter 8Conclusion179
Appendix AInterview Questionnaire191
Appendix BDescription of Interview Sample194
Appendix CRecord Prices for Art197
Appendix DMultilevel Analysis of Prices for Art199
Notes209
Bibliography237
Index255

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