Art is a $57 billion market almost entirely unregulated by the government. Here is a remarkable summary of its recent performance as an asset class by two key power players: a fair and a bank. The summary tells a story of segmentation and distension of the market towards extreme ends of the scale: a tiny fraction of artists make up the vast bulk of sales, with just .017% of galleries responsible for 80% of total sales by value. On page 236, note how the text suddenly worries about the effect of dramatic wealth inequality on the market, if chiefly via the self-reinforcing feedback loops of nervous nouveau-riche collectors buying only what already seems safe, and thus tightening exclusive corners. With the recent boom years having crashed into the nativist politics of Brexit and Trump, art’s peculiar contingency as a commodity becomes clear: the astronomical ROI on a Warhol is only possible with a globalized marketplace.

This entry is included in Library Stack as part of the house collection Reality Winners

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