Special Issue "Art Markets and Digital Histories"

A special issue of Arts (ISSN 2076-0752).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 January 2019

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Claartje Rasterhoff

Assistant Professor in Urban History and Digital Methods, Department of History, University of Amsterdam, 1012 WX Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Website | E-Mail
Interests: early modern and modern cultural industries; art markets; urban history; arts and culture; digital humanities
Guest Editor
Dr. Sandra Van Ginhoven

Head of Project for the Study of Collecting and Provenance, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA 90049, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: art history; art markets; economics; visual culture

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Arts investigates the promises and pitfalls of current digital methods in studying the history of art markets. New technologies are becoming integral to research in the humanities and social sciences and this invites a reflection on the use of these methods and techniques in art market studies. Our aim is to explore the different strategies that scholars employ to navigate and negotiate digital techniques and data sources, particularly when combining different datasets and types. Furthermore, the wealth of digitized historical data on objects and agents in art markets is rapidly expanding, and this data is increasingly published as Linked Open Data. Two recent historiographical trends make the use of Linked Data particularly relevant to art market studies.

First of all, the history of art markets has since long been studied through economic, social, and cultural lenses. While some scholars opt for the one or the other, others try to integrate them through the topics of, for instance, intermediaries, market mediation, and valuation processes. Open access to digital assets from art museums, archives, and libraries provide the opportunity, in the form of linked data and combined sources, to test cross-overs between research domains and thereby expand our understanding of art markets as socio-cultural as well as economic phenomena. But translating the promise of Linked Data into actual conceptual leaps in the field requires careful design of data models and methodologies.

The second trend also concerns the boundaries of the art market, but on a spatial level. The geographical reach of historical art market studies has been extended beyond Europe and the United States to include Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Australia. At the same time, scholars have developed increasing interest on themes such as cross-border trade and networks, global vs. national vs. local, and migration and mobility patterns. In theory, digitization and linked data provide excellent opportunities for advanced cross-border and comparative analyses, but in practice it has proven difficult to systematically link or compare data across borders and languages.

For this issue, we seek contributions that present a historical research question relevant to art market studies. We are particularly interested in contributions that reach out to other domains (be they time, place, or societal), and that place emphasis on combining and using multiple sources or data types (linked or not linked). There are no limitations as to place or time, as long as the papers are explicit on their research processes with regards to data, techniques and methods.

A wide range of topics will be suitable for this Special Issue and might include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • collecting practices
  • consumption patterns
  • art as investment
  • intermediaries
  • art dealers and auctions
  • new technologies
  • galleries
  • fairs
  • ...

Please send a 200-word proposal and CV to Claartje Rasterhoff () and Sandra van Ginhoven () by 15 June 2018.

Please note that there is a two-stage submission procedure. We first collect abstracts of 200 words by 15 June 2018. Before 15 July, we will invite selected abstracts to be submitted as full papers for peer review by 1 December 2018. Journal publication is expected in March or June 2019, depending on the revision time needed after peer review.

Dr. Claartje Rasterhoff
Dr. Sandra van Ginhoven
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Arts is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) is waived for well-prepared manuscripts submitted to this issue. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • art market
  • digital histories
  • collecting practices
  • consumption patterns
  • art as investment
  • intermediaries
  • art dealers and auctions
  • new technologies
  • galleries
  • fairs

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Status Networks and the Art Market

Abstract: The effect of an artist's status on the price of artwork is well-known and a central tenant in art market research. In considering how an artist's status proliferates, much research examines networks, where certain artistic groupings and associations promote individual member’s artistic standing (i.e., "associative status networks"). When considering the role of associative status networks, there are two models by which status may increase. First, the apotheosis model suggests actors of similar status are associated, with high-status actors connected as elite. Second, the cumulative advantage model suggests a halo effect occurs, where an individual’s status increases with association with high(er)-status artists.

We research how status moves through networks of artists exhibited in museums and test the apotheosis verses cumulative advantage models, ascertaining whether status-acquisition is a selection or influence process.

This research capitalizes on the retrospective digitization of exhibition catalogues, allowing for large-scale longitudinal analysis heretofore unviable for researchers. We use the exhibition history of approximately 500 artists from the digitized archives of three major Dutch museums (Stedelijk, Boijmans-Van Beuningen, Van Abbe) from 1930 to 1989, as well as data on artist's market performance from artprice.com and artfact.com and bibliographic data from the Netherlands Institute for Art History database. We employ network analysis to analyze the temporal interplay of associative status networks on an artist's performance within the art market (auction prices) over a 60-year period.


The Digital Image in Art Historical Art Market Research: Case Study of the Image Archive of the "Verband von Museums-Beamten zur Abwehr von Fälschungen und Unlauterem Geschäftsgebahren"

Abstract: Against potential arbitrariness of digital research, a specific theoretical framework is needed to built a methodological strategy. I give as a case study the question of museums and the art market, which I investigate in my postdoctoral project since 2018.

My paper argues that scholarly prepared digital images have two potentials for research:

  1. Images being interlinked between each other, which helps to explain the valuation of artworks in their key economic quality of being in a collection form (see for a theoretical background on this Esquerre/Boltanski, "La collection..." 2014).
  2. Images being linked to a context, through meta-data, and research information that is merged with these virtual objects.

My case study is the image archive of the "Verband von Museums-Beamten zur Abwehr von Fälschungen und unlauterem Geschäftsgebahren" (Association of Museum Officials for Defence against Fakes and Improper Business Practices), which existed from 1899 to 1938 and which was a precursor to the international associations of museums formed in the 20th century. In the images that these museum officials archived and circulated among each other together with an internal text publication, the economy, expertise and technology of museums can be investigated. Together with software developers, I have designed an interface for digitally parsing, analyzing and presenting these images in context.


Innovative Exuberance: Visualizing the Fluctuations in Painting Production in the 17th-Century Northern Netherlands

Abstract: The surprising and rapid flowering of the Dutch art and art market from the late 16th century to the mid-17th century have propelled scholars to quantify the volume of production and to determine the source of growth. However, existing studies have not been able to throw light upon the fluctuations of painting production in the Dutch Republic beyond vague expressions. Employing data mining techniques to leverage the most comprehensive datasets of Netherlandish paintings (RKD and Getty Provenance Inventory), this paper visualizes and analyzes the trend of painting production in the Northern Netherlands throughout the 17th century. Based on the visualized production trend, this paper further explicates how different agents like collectors, poets, and celebrated artists created a network of reinforcing feedbacks in the art market characterized by over-enthusiasm, wide-spread public endorsement, unrealistic expectations, and inordinate risk-taking, all of which not only drove up painting production, but also made artists dare to explore new, sometimes unreasonable opportunities. Breaking down the homo economicus assumption by introducing behavioral elements to the art market dynamics, this paper demonstrates how cogitative biases and risk-taking attitude have spurred exuberant artistic innovations that highlighted the Dutch contribution to the development of art.


The Cyber Turn of the Contemporary Art Market: The Contribution of the Augmented Reality and Block Chain Technologies to the Expansion of the Online Art Trade

Abstract: The digital world has long been offering new venues for a number of cultural activities that cannot exist without the Internet. Since the beginning of a new millennium, cyber culture has spawned new creative genres and opened up computer environments to the people without specialized technical knowledge. Today, in turn, we can witness that the economic handling of art, which had previously had nothing to do with the augmented reality or cyberspace, increases its online presence. The paper analyzes the growing 'virtualization' of the global art market and demonstrates how such phenomena as augmented reality and block chain technologies contribute to the booming of the contemporary online art trade. The paper suggests that cyberspace challenges the conventional art trade in three respects. Firstly, the paper examines an increase of a number of art galleries that refuse to exist in the physical space and operate only online. It argues that virtual galleries change traditional gallery experience, thus questioning a role of an art dealer as an intermediate between artists and art collectors. Secondly, the paper touches upon a growing proportion of auction lots sold online through a number of auction houses, including Christie’s and Sotheby's. It claims that online art auctions shift the global concentration of art objects from the conventional art trade centers located in the Western countries towards the new art trade centers beyond the Western world, which makes the creation, acquisition, and display of art more dependent on the global economic relations and world money flows. Thirdly, the paper hypothesizes that in the nearest future we should get ready for paying for art transactions with virtual currency, such as bitcoin, litecoin and many others. It suggests that crypto money built upon the block chain algorithms may, on the one hand, make art deals less transparent and open to the general public, but, on the other hand, it may transform the contemporary art market through creating an opportunity to trade art by means of platform technologies or crowdsourcing. The paper concludes that an increasing presence of art trade in the cyberspace inevitably diminishes the aesthetic value of art by treating it predominantly as a commercial good or business practice.


Method, Theory, and Practice When Dealing with a Plurality of Imperfect Art Market Data

Abstract: As we published elsewhere, from 1550 to 1680 the Antwerp-Mechelen production complex was capable of production peeks of 10,000–15,000 paintings per year, a production capability consciously established to export paintings to multiple art markets on a large scale. This paper uses these research outcomes to develop new methodologies to conduct historical research of large aggregates of imperfect data derived from multiple sources. Art historians avoid methodological confrontations with aggregate and imperfect art market data, while cultural economists and economic historians usually address it, for instance, in a hedonic regression model when they have sufficient individual price profiles.

The recent contribution focuses on new methods of circumventing these constraints, by, for instance expanding on Hotelling's theorem of minimum product differentiation, which has never been attempted for Mechelen, and to show where it fails to hold true. We also present new models of price competition, economies of scale, and optimal location that is not based on local consumer behavior. The second part introduces a data- driven cluster analysis and new visualizations of production differentiation in two cities with unusually high concentrations of artists. Key here is to contribute to the methodological innovation in art market studies and digital humanities, broadly defined.


The Market for Paintings in Antwerp and Amsterdam, 1550–1700: A Data Perspective

Abstract: This study presents a data driven comparative analysis of the market for paintings in sixteenth and seventeenth century Antwerp and Amsterdam. The popular view of the development of these two artistic centers still holds that Antwerp flourished in the sixteenth century and was succeeded by Amsterdam after the formers recapturing by the Spanish in 1585. However, demographic analysis of the number of painters active in Antwerp and Amsterdam shows that Antwerp recovered relatively quickly after 1585 and that it remained the leading artistic center in the Low Countries, only to be surpassed by Amsterdam in the 1640's. Analysis of migration patterns and social networks shows that painters in Antwerp formed a more cohesive group than painters in Amsterdam. As a result the two cities responded quite differently to internal and external market shocks. Data for this study are taken from ECARTICO, a database and a linked data web resource with structured biographical data on over 8000 painters working in the Low Countries until circa 1725. The final section of this paper investigates how we can improve our analysis by combining biographical data from ECARTICO with data on objects from Linked Open Data resources like Wikidata and Europeana.


ART | GALLERY GIS | COLOGNE as an Example for Opportunities and Risks of Digital Mapping for Art Market Studies

Abstract: Founded in 1967, the ART COLOGNE was the first art fair worldwide to specialise in contemporary art. Its primary objectives were to further the art trade in Germany, promote German artists, and establish a new centre for the art trade in post-war Germany.

Starting point of the contribution is the analysis of ART COLOGNE's internationalization. Therefore the locations of the participating galleries during the first three decades were gathered from the fair catalogues, georeferenced (GeoJSON), and visualised in an online map (Leaflet.js) named ART | GALLERY GIS | COLOGNE. Through a reactive environment (Vue.js), the online map with open access is embedded in further information (e.g. special exhibitions, square metre prizes).

The overall objective of the paper is to use this example to reflect on what contextualising information is required for an adequate analysis of maps, which boundaries exist (e.g., in terms of copy right laws), and which paths could be taken methodically (e.g., Deep Mapping) to contribute to the exploration of the structures of the art market through a primarily visual approach.


Revisiting Harrison and Cynthia White' Academic vs. Dealer-Critic System

Abstract: The field of art market studies is based on a famous opposition, coined by Harrison and Cynthia White, regarding the "academic" system, as opposed to the "dealer-critic" one. Published in 1965, their book, Canvases and Careers, was qualified by Patricia Mainardi and Robert Jensen but this criticism dates
back to 1994. In the meantime, the development of digital methods and new technologies makes possible a broader reassessment of Harrison and Cynthia White' theory.

Based on a georeferenced corpus of the Parisian art dealers and on a comprehensive dataset of the Parisian auction sales, from 1831 through 1925, this paper uses social network analysis, econometrics and other quantitative methods to call into question the antagonism between the academic and the dealer-critic system, and comes to another conclusion: the academic system was crucial to determine the value of artworks and its strength didn't come to an end in the 1870s, but rather in the interwar period.


Intermediaries and the Market: Hans Rottenhammer's Use of Networks in the Copper Painting Market

Abstract: In Willem van Haecht's Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest, The Last Judgment by the German artist Hans Rottenhammer stands prominently in the foreground. Signed and dated 1598, it is one of many copper panel paintings Rottenhammer produced and sent north of the Alps during his decade-long sojourn in Venice. That the work was valued alongside those of Renaissance masters raises questions about Rottenhammer's artistic status and how the painting reached Antwerp. This essay examines Rottenhammer's international market as a function of his relationships with artist-friends and art agents, especially those in Venice's German merchant community. By employing digital visualization tools alongside the study of archival documents, such as letters and testimonials, the essay attends to the intermediary connections within a social network, and their effects on the art market. It argues for Rottenhammer's use of—and negotiation with—intermediaries to establish an international career. Through digital tools, such as ArcGIS and Palladio, the artist’s patronage group is shown to have shifted geographically, from multiple countries around 1600 to Germany and Antwerp after 1606, when he relocated to Augsburg. Yet, the same trusted friends and associates he had established in Italy continued to participate in Rottenhammer's business of art.

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