The Careers of Modern Artists: Evidence from Auctions of Contemporary Paintings

David W. Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 6331
Issued in December 1997
NBER Program(s):   LS

Using transactions from fine art auctions for 42 leading American contemporary artists I estimate the relationship between the value of a painting and the artist's age at the date of its execution. The econometric estimates show that artists born before 1920 were likely to have done their most valuable work late in their careers, while in contrast artists born in the 1920s and 30s were more likely to have done their most valuable work at an early age. Comparison of these results to evidence drawn from art history textbooks and museum exhibitions furthermore indicates that these artists' most valuable work has also been that most highly regarded by scholars. I argue that the shift across generations in the shape of these artists' age-price profiles was a result of both the evolution of modern" painting and a growth in the demand for contemporary American art during the 1950s and 60s.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6331

Published: David Galenson, 2000. "The Careers of Modern Artists," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 87-112, May.

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