7 Feb 2008

Art Market - Ethics

As most buyers will testify there are numerous problems that plague the art market when it comes to pricing. One keeps talking, hearing and reading about the lack of transparency in the art market. Prices of artists vary from gallery to gallery and from one city to another. This difference is usually much more than what one would expect due to transportation or other costs related to logistics.
Credibility of the seller is another very essential factor that needs to be considered when buying art. As most people are aware there are numerous fly by night art dealers and consultants who are quick to cash on to the growing popularity of the art mart. Out to make a quick buck some dealers charge commissions that are ad hoc and do not hesitate to hike the price of a particular artwork according to its demand. One wonders if that is ethical? On the other hand, auction prices are completely driven by demand – the more the demand the higher the hammer price. In which case some may argue that if a buyer is willing to pay more in any secondary market then why not utilise the situation to one’s advantage.

As a buyer one needs to be alert about multiple aspects when buying an artwork. Fakes as well as price differences and credentials of the dealer are just some of the elements that one needs to consider. Recently, we had discussed how the Internet and online support groups could help in checking and validating prices of artworks. The same methodology can be used to check the credentials of a gallery or a dealer.

However, one must remember that art appreciation is something that is largely subjective. Other things (dealer credibility, authenticity of the artwork) being equal, it does come down to how much you like a piece of art, and how much you are willing to pay for it. And, even if art is a viable investment option, today, one should not lose sight of the fact that its real value does come from its aesthetic appeal.

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