The power lies with the dealers

CHF 10 for a drawing on Etsy, USD 120,000 for a banana duct-taped to a wall, millions of francs for a watercolor painting: who sets the prices for all these “works of art,” and how? Anne Laure Bandle is a lawyer who specializes in art, entertainment and copyright law. According to her, the price chain originates with the world’s leading art dealers, who select the artists that they wish to market.

“The biggest dealers are as famous as the artists they represent. For example, Irving Blum was the first art dealer to exhibit pieces by Andy Warhol. From then on, collectors and artists eagerly followed Warhol's every move. Dealers market their artists in order to have as many art critics as possible talk positively about them in the media. This generates a buzz around them and encourages museums to consider exhibiting their works. All of these factors increase the value of the art.”

Art hype

Anne Bandle goes on to explain that dealers' actions generate consumer preferences on the art market. Their desire to purchase a work of art influences demand for the item. She concludes by drawing attention to the fact that, in recent years, more and more famous actors and singers have been attending art fairs and buying art, which has also led to hype on the market.

What makes art, art?

From a legal perspective, this is a very complex question, as everyday objects can also be classed as art. Such is the case with “ready-made” art, for example. “There are generally no limits as to what counts as art,” explains Bandle. “The law considers all cultural goods of significance to archeology, history, literature, art or science to be art. However, only works that are sufficiently individual can be copyrighted.”

Bandle says that even if she knew the answer to that question, she certainly wouldn’t tell us! However, she notes that “as with many professions, the art dealer’s aptitude for marketing is important, as is having good contacts. Recent months have seen a great deal of buzz surrounding previously underrated artists who are now becoming increasingly popular, including with museums.”

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