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The Art Market

The Art Market

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore the idea of artistic patrons and patronage.

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Tutorial

How the Art Market has changed over time, and the role of patrons and patronage on the Art Market.

Video Transcription

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Hello, I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about defining what the art market is and how it has changed over time. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. As soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, explain how patrons and patronage have influenced the production of works of art, describe contemporary examples of the art market, and describe examples of patronage other than direct employment.

The key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. Today's first key term is patron, a person who provides financial support for the arts by purchasing works of art, or by paying the artist as an employee, or by other means, such as establishing a scholarship. Patronage is the act of financially supporting the arts. Art market is the economic circulation of works of art. Art gallery is a store or showroom where works of art are sold. A gallery could also be a room in a museum. And finally auction, a system of selling works of art in which buyers compete to purchase works of art by offering increasingly higher bids.

The big idea, or the common thread, or theme, that runs throughout this lesson for today, is that patrons and patronage have had a major influence on the production of art and the related art market.

So what is a patron? Well simply put, they're the money. They can be individuals, families, companies, countries, or other major institutions like the Catholic church. And like any business, the professional art market was and is driven by financial influences. Art is expensive. It takes time and materials. So patrons really were the impetus for the beginning of the business of art.

Why do we care? Creating art for the sake of art will usually only go so far. We can thank patrons for providing the motivation for artists to create some of their finest work. Some important questions to keep in mind any time you're valuing a work of art, however, are why is the art being produced, and how does the motivation affect the production?

The canon of Renaissance and Baroque art in Europe, which we'll learn about later on, are full of examples that have strong religious connotations. The influence of the Church weighed heavily on that. And something to consider would be what would the art production have been like if the major patronages had changed. What if Microsoft, for example, is financing all the artwork being produced? How would that change our perception of history?

Patronage has existed in some form throughout the history of art. It really hit its groove beginning with the Renaissance in Europe. So why do we care? Well the act of patronage helped produce a lot of Western artwork. And this is where the business of art really took shape in Europe. Financially sound patrons provided incentive to increase the production, which led to workshops being created to meet the production demands, but also to help train artists in artistic theory, and to help them develop their skills.

The major employment and/or income potentials during this time were associated with contracts between the patron and the artist. For example, a wealthy member the Medici family, which is a wealthy family in Renaissance Italy, contracted with Michelangelo to create the tomb you see on the right. The court artist was another form of continuous employment, much more of a steady job. If you could link up with a member of royalty who had an appreciation for the arts, they would hook you up with room and board and a constant stream of projects.

In the modern world, the job of court artist has evaporated. Royalty simply doesn't exist in the same way it used to. If you see an ad on Craigslist for court artist, I'd recommend skipping it. However, the modern art market does still rely on contracts is a means of employment. But it's the middle class market that now makes up a huge percentage of the modern art market. This market took form during the Renaissance, particularly in northern Europe.

So why do we care? Well this market is driven less by the contract for hire opportunity and more by the resale of already produced artwork. If you think about the downtown art scene of any medium to large city and the galleries that showcase artwork that's available for purchase, you aren't commissioning a custom work of art, necessarily, but buying something already made that catches your eye. So it's simple supply and demand. If the demand skews a certain way, supply will usually adjust accordingly.

So this brings up the questions that are important ask yourself as you're viewing any piece of art. Why is it being produced, and how does the motivation affect the production?

Auctions and why do we care about them? Auctions are where individuals bid on a piece of artwork with the highest bidder receiving the artwork. It's just another part of the modern art market. Now during this process, there's usually a reserve, or minimum, price accepted, but no maximum. It's strictly driven by demand, which is why you'll hear about famous works of art selling for tens of millions of dollars. This is more of an aftermarket though in that the owners of the artwork are looking to sell what they have to another party rather than the artist personally selling their work to an individual.

This example here, this painting by Gustav Klimt, sold for $40 million at auction. Some other modern examples of patronage would be art fairs, like the Art Basel in Switzerland, Miami, and Hong Kong. And fellowships. Fellowships are programs where money is awarded to an individual of artistic merit by a foundation that supports the arts. And three well-known art fellowships are the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Fellowship-- and there's a picture of Simon Guggenheim on the right-- and the MacArthur Foundation.

Since we've been talking so much about this artist patron relationship and how important it is, I thought it fitting to show you a few examples of famous artist patron relationships. The first is of the Renaissance painter Raphael, who's on the left, and one of his patrons-- well, most well-known patrons-- Pope Julius II. Second example is Diego Velazquez, who was a Spanish painter, he's on the left, and his famous patron, Phillip IV of Spain. Diego Velazquez was actually a court painter, or a court artist. And lastly, Leonardo da Vinci, in a personal sketch on the left, and Francis I of France. Francis of France.

OK let's take a look at the objectives from today and see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Explain how patrons and patronage have influenced the production of works of art, describe contemporary examples of the art market, and describe examples of patronage other than direct employment.

The big idea, or the common thread, or theme, for this lesson are that patrons and patronage have had a major influence on the production of art and the related art market.

I'd like to thank you for joining me in this lesson today. I'll see you next time.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Patron

    A person who provides financial support for the arts, by purchasing works of art, or by paying the artist as an employee, or by other means, such as establishing a scholarship.

  • Patronage

    The act of financially supporting the arts.

  • Art Market

    The economic circulation of works of art.

  • Art Gallery

    A store or showroom where works of art are sold. A gallery could also be a room in a museum.

  • Auction

    A system of selling works of art in which buyers compete to purchase works of art by offering increasingly higher bids.