During the last decades, art, in particular modern and contemporary art, has developed into an alternative asset class. However, this finding is neither reflected in the art historical analysis nor in the legal framework for the global art market: The majority of art historians seem to regard this development as negligible feature of the art scene, and none of the relevant jurisdictions has as yet provided rules that even remotely resemble the legal protection of markets and investors in securities trading. As a consequence, the art market is characterized by a degree of intransparency and an array of manipulative practices that would be inconceivable in securities markets. The indifference of legislators to disturbances and distortions of art markets is obviously based on the widespread perception that the victims of these structures and practices are mainly (ultra) high net worth individuals who dominate the demand for art. But this attitude ignores the public involvement that sets the art market apart from markets for other luxury goods: Through tax breaks for private donations and trusts and value-enhancing curatorial services in public museums and exhibitions, art has become a highly subsidized asset class. These rules and institutions, which were originally meant to serve the public interest by isolating works of art from the market context, are perhaps better understood if they are conceived as part of the art market, i.e. as instruments that sophisticated suppliers, consumers and intermediaries of art can apply to serve their own economic interests. Public institutions have thus become accessories to practices that lead to artificially inflated prices, which in turn are co-financed by public budgets through tax subsidies and infrastructure services.
How does this nexus influence the production and the consumption of art? What is the esthetics of art as a financial product? Which economic and esthetic changes would we have to expect from a regulation of the art market along the lines of securities regulation? Would the public interest in the production, preservation, and public display of art be better served by incentives other than the present tax breaks?
Our workshop intends to bring together experts from art history, law, economics and sociology in order to discuss these questions.