A Portrait of the Artist as a Young, Middle-Aged, and Elderly Man
21 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2020
Date Written: September 16, 1999
We explore the age-value and age-quantity productivity profiles of 53 great Western artists whose work has been auctioned in the last decade. In terms of the average value of their paintings, we find that artists have three distinct phases to their careers: a steep incline, more than doubling their expected value until an age 31 peak; then follows a slower decline until age 47, losing almost half their peak value, and finally a very slow decline. The top quartile of artists distinguish themselves not only by a higher average value, but also in midcareer by losing only a fifth of their peak value in 31-47.
We then compare these value results with the annual quantity age-profiles: Output rises by more than 125% steeply until age 32, and then falls very slowly for the rest of their career. This decline is significantly steeper for the lowest expected value quartile of artists. Finally, we show that artists paint significantly more the higher is their average value.
Our analysis uses both polynomial fits, as well as multiple structure change analysis to deduce the best fits by piecewise linear splines.
JEL Classification: J3
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation