NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Who Are the Greatest Living Artists? The View from the Auction Market

David W. Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 11644
Issued in October 2005
NBER Program(s):   AP   LS

Many art critics and scholars argue that art markets are irrational, and that there is no correlation between prices and artistic importance. This paper identifies all living artists who have executed at least one work that has sold at auction for at least $1 million, and ranks them both by the highest price for which any of their works have sold, and by the number of times their works have sold for $1 million or more. These rankings show that the most valuable art is made by the greatest artists: the leaders in these tables, including Jasper Johns, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, and Jeff Koons, are clearly among the most important artists alive today. This study also underscores the fact that the most important art of the past 50 years has overwhelmingly been made by young geniuses who have made radical conceptual innovations at early ages.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11644

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