Art Market

How Artworks Get Their Prices

Clare McAndrew
Mar 18, 2019 9:28PM

How do experts determine the value of an artwork? And what drives art valuations up and down? Leading arts economist Clare McAndrew gives insight into the key drivers at work in this complex process in the first of four segments from her current Christie’s Education course “Art Market Economics,” which are being published on Artsy.

McAndrew is the author of the influential annual report “The Art Market,” published by Art Basel and UBS, and has written multiple books on the international art market and the financial structures that support and drive it. In this film, she unpacks the subjective and objective components that drive how artworks are valued. Among the most important factors is the relative fame of the artist who made the work, as well as her position within the global art market or a regional market in which the work will be sold.

However, many additional factors complicate this relationship. For example, artworks’ prices typically rise as their sizes increase, but only up to a certain point, at which an artwork may be too large for a broad base of private buyers. The artwork’s medium may also contribute to its valuation: Paintings typically fetch the highest prices, but that can differ on an artist-by-artist basis if, for example, they are better known for their works on paper.

McAndrew also discusses the more nuanced effects an artwork’s provenance and exhibition history can have on its value, and the effects that trends and social shifts—for example, a shift away from religious art—can have on prices.

Clare McAndrew
Dr. Clare McAndrew is a cultural economist who specializes in the arts, antiques, and collectibles markets. She is the author of “The Art Market,” an annual report published by Art Basel and UBS.

© Christie Manson & Woods Ltd. 2019.

Thumbnail image: Christie’s employees pose in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at Christie’s auction house in London, 2017. Photo by Tolga Akmend/AFP/Getty Images.