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: 0691134030

ISBN-13: 9780691134031

Pub. Date: 07/30/2007

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:
9780691134031
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/30/2007
Series:
Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
1,140,498
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Graphs ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: The Architecture of the Art Market 21
Chapter 2: Exchanging Meaning 53
Chapter 3: Promoters versus Parasites 77
Chapter 4: Determinants of Prices 97
Chapter 5: The Art of Pricing 116
Chapter 6: Stories of Prices 132
Chapter 7: Symbolic Meanings of Prices 158
Chapter 8: Conclusion 179
Appendix A: Interview Questionnaire 191
Appendix B: Description of Interview Sample 194
Appendix C: Record Prices for Art 197
Appendix D: Multilevel Analysis of Prices for Art 199
Notes 209
Bibliography 237
Index 255

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