Journal article

Transparency in an opaque market: Evaluative frictions between “thick” valuation and “thin” price data in the art market


Accounting, Organizations and Society | Pergamon | Published : 2016


This paper highlights the paradoxical effects of increased price data in markets with difficult-to-value products where non-price factors are highly relevant. In the fine art market, the growth of market information providers facilitated access to auction price data, beneficial in a market noted for its clandestine dealings. Drawing from inductive ethnographic research, the paper notes complex outcomes from increased data availability, as auction prices can be seen as an indicator of an artwork’s value. The findings deconstruct factors of supply, demand and multiple prices in the art market, highlighting important non-price factors in valuation, which complicate provider claims of art market..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Funding Acknowledgements

This research was funded by fieldwork grants from the American Philosophical Society, University of Chicago Overseas Dissertation Fund, and the University of Chicago Nicholson Center for British Studies. Revisions were supported by the University of Chicago Michael and Ling Markovitz Fellowship, University of Melbourne Department of Management and Marketing and University of Melbourne Faculty of Business and Economics. This paper benefitted significantly from the generous comments of the AOS editors and reviewers. I would also like to thank Karin Knorr Cetina, Peter Gahan, Cynthia Hardy, Daniel Hirschman, Edward Lynch-Bell, Andrew M., Yuval Millo, Emma Nicholls, Joel Barnes and Christophe Spaenjers, as well as my interviewees, both named and unnamed. I give my sincere appreciation to the librarians of the Sotheby's Institute of Art, London and to gallerist Loring Randolph.