Is the global art market a myth?
The academic Olav Velthuis argues that the business of art isn’t as international as it seems
By Melanie Gerlis. Web only
Published online: 25 April 2014
The American artist Edward Hopper has never sold at auction outside the United States—so said the writer and academic Olav Velthuis at a lecture at the Courtauld Institute this week to illustrate what he calls the “myth” of a global art market.
While his statement isn’t quite true (five of Hopper’s 402 works offered at auction have sold outside the US, according to Artnet), it is certainly a strikingly small proportion in what we are often told is an international scene.
Velthuis was presenting his preliminary research into the art markets in Brazil, Russia, India and China where he has found that the majority of businesses are organised “extremely locally”, despite aspiring to the borderless ideals of international artists who command global demand—which he said has been “vastly exaggerated”.
He acknowledged the “small top segment” of private-jet setters who operate in a global art world—but said that this area is covered disproportionately through both the media and academia, thus fuelling the myth. Sitting in the audience was the Courtauld Institute’s professor, Julian Stallabrass, who was quick to point out that this top segment may be small, but accounts for a significant proportion of the art business.
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