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The Economics of Aesthetics and Three Centuries of Art Price Records

William Goetzmann, Elena Mamonova, Christophe Spaenjers

NBER Working Paper No. 20440
Issued in August 2014
NBER Program(s):The Asset Pricing Program, The Economic Fluctuations and Growth Program

Aggregate art price patterns mask a lot of underlying variation--both in the time series and in the cross- section. We argue that, to increase our understanding of the market for aesthetics, it is helpful to take a micro perspective on the formation of art prices, and acknowledge that each artwork gives rise to a market for trading in its private-value benefits. We discuss relevant recent literature, and illustrate the potential of this approach through a historical study of art price records between 1701 and 2014. Our newly constructed series also points to the importance of developments in the industrial organization of the art market for long-term price trends.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20440

Published: Christophe Spaenjers, William N. Goetzmann, Elena Mamonova, The economics of aesthetics and record prices for art since 1701, Explorations in Economic History, Volume 57, 2015, Pages 79-94, ISSN 0014-4983, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eeh.2015.03.003.

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