Do the Most Important Artists Make the Most Expensive Paintings?

28 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2018

See all articles by David W. Galenson

David W. Galenson

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: October 2, 2018

Abstract

Art experts have disagreed about whether art markets accurately reflect artistic importance. This paper uses published surveys of art history to construct a critical ranking of the 30 most important American painters of the last century, then uses auction records to identify the most expensive paintings by these artists. The results show a strong positive association between critical rankings and auction prices: there is a high rank correlation between the critical ranking of artists and a ranking of the artists by their single highest auction price, and the top artists in the critical ranking are highly disproportionately represented among auction sales over $10 million, $30 million, and $50 million. Auction markets do recognize artistic importance: the greatest artists produce the most expensive paintings, and it is their most important works that sell for the highest prices.

Suggested Citation

Galenson, David W., Do the Most Important Artists Make the Most Expensive Paintings? (October 2, 2018). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2018-73. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3259208 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3259208

David W. Galenson (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-8191 (Phone)
773-702-8490 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
192
rank
148,669
Abstract Views
1,996
PlumX Metrics