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Contextual Art And Hedonic Price Indexes: To Be Or Not To Be Marketable?. Belén MAZUECOS Faculty of Arts. University of Granada Marilena VECCO ICARE – International Center for Art Economics University of Ca’ Foscari – Venice. 1. The Context.

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Contextual art and hedonic price indexes to be or not to be marketable l.jpg

Contextual Art And Hedonic Price Indexes: To Be Or Not To Be Marketable?


Faculty of Arts. University of Granada

Marilena VECCO

ICARE – International Center for Art Economics

University of Ca’ Foscari – Venice

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1. The Context

  • “Art pour l’art” approach or a market oriented approach?

  • Art is a profit exchange which generates wealth and employment 4th sector: Industry of subjectiveness

  • The market of contemporary art is involved in the distribution but also in the production: it influences the artists the market

    Devaluation of the aesthetic interest

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Some features of the CAM

  • High specialisation and diversification of gatekeepers

  • Internationalisation of markets

  • Different dynamics of support (public and private)

  • Multiplication of art exhibition spaces (traditional and new one)

  • Growth of the number of artists

  • Relevance of the role of the critics

  • Speed of the exchange and movements

  • Dematerialisation process of the work of art

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CULTURAL CAPITALISM Collision of the economic sphere and the symbolic production





Crisis of the legitimization of art

Contextual Art

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Paradox, more transgressive the artists act, more involvement and interest of the gatekeepers the market neutralises the critic

The specific art locus is the place

of the conflict and the opposition

Trick game

“Everything having the calculated negation of itself prepares the compromise and then its integrated absorption”.

Jose Luis Brea (2004).

The art space becomes the context of the accusation and plaint but not the space of the transformation

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Definition of CA

“Who critizes through his/her work (performance, installation or art objects) the art market and the institutions in order to subverse the structures of power, the distribution and the exhibition mechanisms”

RIEMSCHNEIDER, B. e GROSENICK, U. (edited by) (2002), Art Now. 137 artistas al comienzo del S.XXI. Köln,Taschen, p. 560.

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Different movements

CA is a movement but also the “no movement”

  • BROODTHAERS, Marcel (Bruselas, Belgica, 1924-1975) (Arte Concettuale)

  • CALLE, Sophie (Paris, Francia, 1954-) (Anni’80 Europa)

  • CATTELAN, Maurizio (Padua, Italia, 1960-) (Anni’90 Europa)

  • DUCHAMP, Marcel(Blainville-Crevon, Bélgica, 1887- Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1968) (Dada)

  • FLEURY, Silvie (Suiza, 1962-) (Arte Concettuale)

  • GERRILLA GIRLS (Nueva York, U.S.A.) (Anni’80 America)

  • GILBERT Y GEORGE (San Martino, Dolomites, Italia, 1942-; Devon, U.K, 1943-) (Arte Concettuale)

  • HAACKE, Hans (Colonia, Alemania, 1936-) (Arte Concettuale)

  • HADJIMICHALIS, George (Atenas, Grecia, 1954-) (Anni’90 Europa)

  • KOONS, Jeff (York, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.,1955-) (Neo Geometric Conceptualism)

  • KRUGER, Barbara (Newark, 1945-) (Arte Concettuale)

  • LAURETTE, Matthieu (Villeneuve St. George, Francia, 1970-) (Anni’90 Europa)

  • MANZONI, Piero (Soncino,Cremona, Italia, 1934; Milàn, Italia, 1963) (Nouveau Realismo)

  • MEIRELES, Cildo (Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 1948-) (Arte Concettuale)

  • MUNTADAS, Antoni (Barcelona, Espana, 1942-) (Anni’90 Europa)

  • ORLAN (Porte Mireille Orlan) (Saint-Etienne, Francia, 1947-) (Arte Concettuale)

  • PARDO, Jorge (La Habana, Cuba, 1963-) (Anni’90 Sudamerica)

  • PEREJAUME (Sant Pol de Mar, Barcelona, España, 1957-) (Arte Concettuale)

  • SEHGAL, Tino (Londres, U.K., 1976-) (Arte Concettuale)

  • SIERRA, Santiago (Madrid, España. 1966-) (Arte Concettuale)

  • WARHOL, Andy (Philadelphia, U.S.A, 1930- New York, 1987) (Pop Art. U.S.A.)

  • ………………………………………………………………………………………….

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2. Aim of the research

  • To verify if CA has a market

  • and how its performances are

    3. Methodology

  • Analysing of the CA

  • the CA artists works of art and their strategies

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4. CA: Case studies by themes

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Main critics

  • Art as merchandise

  • Mechanisms of circulation and distribution

  • Cultural and artistic institutions

  • Selection mechanisms

  • Elitism in the art world

  • Authority’s concept

  • Authenticity’s concept

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  • 1. The concept of merchandise

- More and more the artist is near to the worker, taking part to the socio-economic structure of his time

[BENJAMIN, W (1934) / BREA, J.L. (2004)]

Art as a product = concretisation of our socio-economic structure

- The artistic production can be compared with other remunerated work

Marx’ assumption concerning and Frankfurt School

Merchandise is the result of the alienating social relationship, deriving from work

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SANTIAGO SIERRA (Madrid, 1966)Strategy: “Remunerated Aesthetics”. GUASH, A.M. (2003)

360 Hours of job remunerated. 2003.

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Tattooing of 160 cm over 4 persons. 2000.10 cubans remuneraed to masturbate. 2001.

Payment of 67 euro for dyeing the hair. 2001.

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-The market economy, including the artistic exchange, transforms the work of art in a “commodification”, it becomes an alienated merchandise HAUSER, A. (1975)

HANS HAACKE(Colonia, 1936)

Proyekt’74. 1974.

Handful of asparaguses.(Manet. 1880).

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Overshadow of the artistic value by the exchange value

The artistic value is defined on the base of the economic one

the artistic product is legitimated as work of art because of the gatekeepers interests

PIERO MANZONI(Soncino, Cremona, 1933- Milan, 1963)

Artist’s excrement. 1961.

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¿Which are the main factors to define the value of a work?

Demand and supply

Different approaches:

Poli, F. (1976)

“honorific coefficient” (importance of the signature)

“coefficient of sublimation” (degree of intrinsic artistic of the work)

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The Value of Art

  • The Total Value of a work of art is the sum of:

    a) use value economic value

    b) artistic value cultural value

    c) commercial value economic value

    Grampp (1991): theory of marginal utility to explain the art value (use value and artistic benefit)

    Ramos (1996): use value = economic earning

    the concept of marginal utility can not be applied to the work of art, because the utility is subjective

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Vm = f (Na, A, R, Sc, D, E, S, Te, Q)

Fame of the artist


Scarcity (absolute, relative)

State of conservation




Techniques of execution


- technical (objective)

- consumption (subjective)

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CILDO MEIRELES (Río de Janeiro, 1948)Strategy: subversion of the Duchamp’s ready-madeBAKER, G. (2003)

  • Inconsistency/Gap between the value and the price

Check Tzanck. 1919.

MARCEL DUCHAMP (Blainville-Crevon, 1887- Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1968)

Money tree. 1969

Zero Cruzeiro/Zero Dollar/Zero Cent. (1974-1984)

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Disappearing Element / Disappeard Element (Imminet Past). 2002.

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The complexity of the structure supporting the CA leads to consider the artist as a product

¿Is the artist the true merchandise?

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ORLAN (Saint-Etienne, 1947-)

Scenes from the operating room during Orlan’s 7th plastic surgical operation entitled New York Omnipresence. November 21, 1993, procedure involved sewing implants into Orlan’s temples to create two lumps, and placement of an implant into her chin through the lifting of flesh and insertion of muscle tissue.

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FERNANDO ARIAS (Armenia-Quindío, 1963-)

Who offers more. 2004.

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TINO SEHGAL (London, 1976-)

Germany Pavillon, Giardini, Venice,

Biennial, 2005

This is exchange (2004-05)

As part of Tino Seghal’s action: giving back themoney

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2. The reflection on the circulation mechanism and diffusion of art


Critic of the authority principle

Emmanuel Perrotin in Ma Galerie, Paris, 1994.

A perfect day. 1999.

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ANTONI MUNTADAS (Barcelona, 1942-)

The file room. 1994.

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SANTIAGO SIERRA(Madrid, 1966)Lisson Galery. 2002.

  • Critic of the art gallery

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3. Critics to the cultural and exhibition institutions

MARCEL BROODTHAERS (Bruxelles, 1924 – Colonia, 1976)Strategy: Fiction method

Museé d’Art Moderne- Département des Aigles. 1968-1972.

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ELMGREEN & DRAGSET [Michael Elmgreen (Copenague, 1961-) & Ingar Dragset (Trodheim, 1969-)]

Powerless Structures

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Greece national Pavillon,

Giardini, Venice

Biennial 2005Critic to the art institutions

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JEAN-DANIEL BERCLAZ (Néuchatel Suisse, 1955-)

Musée du point de vue (2000-2001)

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CORNELIA SOLLFRANK(Feilershammer, 1960-)


4. Critics to the selection mechanism of art

Female Extension. 1997.

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CasTINg(Venice, 2004-)

All the participants near the winner

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JOTA CASTRO (Lima, 1965-)

5. Critics to the elitarism of the art world

Discrimination day (2005). Palais de Tokio, Paris

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GUERRILLA GIRLS (New York, 1985-)

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PIERO MANZONI (Soncino, 1933; Milan, 1963)

6. Critics to the authorship

Magic base. 1960

Egg with digital print. 1960

Breath of artist.1960

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7. Critics to the notion of authenticity

IMAGEN PIRATA (Bogotá, 1999-2005)

Thing found is not stolen, 2002

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Biennial of Venice. 2001.

8. Critics to collection activity

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BARBARA BLOOM (Los Angeles, 1951-)

The culture of narcissim (1988-89).

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Mark Dion (New Bedforden,1961-)

Collectors/ Collected, Expedition to the Pacific(1862-1866) (1994).

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5. Trends of the Contextual Artists

Hedonic Price Indexes

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Database of 165 contextual artists

73 artists in the database of Artindex Plus selection

52 artists 5005 sales

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Contextual Art And Hedonic Price Indexes (1990-2007)


Pre-War Current (before 1945)

Post-War Current (1945-1970)

Current of Actual Art (since 70s)

Movements:Dadaism, Surrealism, Pop Art, Body Art, Conceptual Art, Land Art, Internazionale Situazionista, Fluxus, Neo-Geo, Europe 80’s , EE.UU. 80’s ., Young British Artists, Europe 90’s, EE. UU. 90’s, and Europe 00.

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Model of hedonic regression

log(Price) ~ broad + large + surface + genre+ technique + material + auction house + date of hammer + artist

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Results of the CA Tendency

Index price considering all the selected works (without printings)

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Currents CA

Pre-War. All the works (without printings)

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Post-War. All the works (without printings)

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Actual Art. All the works (without printings)

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Market segmentation

Selling places of CA

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Art Auctions Houses of CA

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Ratio of Demand and Supply / Liquidity Ratio

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CA genre

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Medium CA

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6. Some Conclusions

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  • The art proposed by the contextual artists can be defined as a dematerialized artistic “merchandise”

  • The artist is an entrepreneur, belonging to the 4th sector: the industry of subjectiveness

  • Stable and increasing prices of CA, the average price of the work of arts is between 29.000 Euro (young artist) and 1.200.000 Euro(master).

  • CA is characterized by the interaction between the artistic field and context

  • The significance of CA is neutralized by the market,

    this art is absorbed by it

    The market produces alienation but at the same time it mediates the relationships in the artistic context

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  • Only 44% of the 165 artists of the sample are in the secondary market

  • The price growth of the works of the CA tendency is positive during the period considered (1990-2007).

  • The liquidity ratio of CA is good (60%-80%.)

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Europe and UK are the main place of Exchange of CA

The analysis by genre and support confirms that more than the half of works are belonging to the category of graphics (48%). Other main genres are: drawing (22%), installation (12%), painting (10%) and photography (8%).

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Thank you for your attention! /

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