Glass Ceilings in the Art Market
61 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2017 Last revised: 30 Aug 2018
Date Written: August 27, 2018
Using an exclusive data set consisting of the population of fine art auctions from 2000 to 2017 for Western artists, with over 2.6 million auction sales, we provide strong empirical evidence of a glass ceiling for female artists. First, we show that female artists are less likely to transition from the primary (gallery) into the secondary (auction) market, where 96.1% of auction sales are by male artists. This higher bar materializes in an average price premium of 4.4% for artworks by female artists at auction. Second, this premium is driven by a small number of women located at the top of the market, and manifests as a discount of 10% when we account for the number of artworks sold per artist. Third, the superstar effect, where a small number of individuals absorb the majority of industry rewards, prevails; at the top 0.1% of the market, artworks by female artists are traded at a discount of 20%. Moreover, the very top 0.03% of the market (where 40% of the sales value are concentrated) are currently unattainable for female artists selling at auction – revealing a glass ceiling. Our study has important implications for industries characterized by a superstar effect and illustrating how market structure impacts gender equality.
Keywords: Art market, Auctions, Gender economics, Labour economics
JEL Classification: J24, J31, J71, Z11
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