Summary of Talking Prices

Symbolic Meanings of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art

Princeton UP, more...

Buy the book

Talking Prices book summary
The market for art treads a fine line between commerce and culture, money and meaning.


8 Overall

6 Applicability

9 Innovation

6 Style


Getting a handle on the economics of the art market is much like grabbing smoke. Dealers are loath to discuss the financial side of their business and the private nature of their transactions frustrates researchers. Even the ostensibly open world of auctions is full of slippery practices. None of that deterred Olav Velthuis, whose exhaustive research into the art market yields a fascinating economic analysis. He explores the anticommercial bias of dealers and even finds some tangible factors that influence art prices. While impressive, Velthuis' work would have benefited from a more conversational, less academic tone. His fascinating price study, for instance, focuses on "coefficients" and "t-values" rather than on actual prices. Still, getAbstract recommends this study for its ambitious and intriguing attempt to shed light on a little-known corner of the economy.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How the art market differs from most economic markets;
  • Why speculation is a dirty word to gallery owners; and
  • How art prices are set.


An Antimarket Marketplace
With its reputation for glamour and big-dollar deals, the art world fits anyone's definition of a
high-stakes marketplace. A Pablo Picasso painting sold at auction in 2004 for $104 million. And from 1987 through 2004, auction houses Sotheby's and Christie...
Get the key points from this book in less than 10 minutes. Learn more about our products or log in

About the Author

Olav Velthuis has been an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Konstanz and a visiting scholar at Princeton and Columbia Universities. He writes about economics for the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

Customers who read this summary also read

More by category