CFP: Materials. Materiality and the Art Market (Session at the CIHA Conference, Lyon, 23-28 Jun 2024)

This panel proposes to explore the questions of materiality and materials within the art market studies, in considering how they can affect the economic and symbolic value of objects and what kind of strategies were implemented to highlight, emphasize the materiality of works or on the contrary to disguise it. The focus will be on the market, from the 1700s until today, for European modern to contemporary pictures, sculptures and decorative arts, as well as archeological objects.

In exploring auction sales catalogues, dealers’ or collectors’ inventories, mentions of materials are omnipresent, whether they concern the materials intwined with the techniques or the bare materiality of works such as formats, dimensions, support etc. Sales catalogues are often divided into sections which address directly the materials such as “oil paintings”, “bronzes”, “porcelain” etc. Facing the diversity of works and their markets, materials appear as the primary reference for professionals to build-on categories and specialties.

Aside from the schools and provenance, the aesthetic judgement based on the materiality of the picture was also guiding the attributions. Indeed, many adjectives were used by experts and connoisseurs to describe the materials’ specificities of paintings, like the “touch” or the “manner” (Delaplanche, Pomian). In the auction business, pictures experts were traditionally painters-restorers showing how the experience was key to the expertise.

For the decorative arts, especially for jewellery, arms and armours, materials – gold, silver or precious stones – are considered as important market indicators since their economic value is meant to reflect a certain stability in the objects price. The introduction of new materials also triggered innovations and new markets. Chinese or Japanese lacquer and porcelain were used by the marchands merciers in the 1700s to introduce new types of works such as lacquer furniture. Later, the development of cultural and economic value associated to such “precious” materials also triggered the introduction of “substitutes”, considered as novelty and desirable on the primary market (Berg) but often disregarded on the secondary market.

The goal of this international session is to question the impact of the value of materials and the materiality of the works on their markets, focusing preferably on the secondary market. The papers are invited to cover some of the following questions:

    • Works’ prices variations according to their materials, formats or dimensions (econometric and comparative analysis of any scale)

    • Collectors ‘preferences for specific works relating to their materials-Expression and validation of expertise or attribution through the experience/knowledge of specific materials/works

    • Contents of catalogs’ descriptions or advertising, highlighting strategies in relation to specific materials

    • Impact of restoration costs / replacement or addition of materials across time

    • Auctions sales or dealers’ catalogs materiality (size of catalogs, lay-out, editing) and the impact on the sales

For more information on the 2024 CIHA Congress and for a French version of this CFP visit:

Session Convenors:

Camille Mestdagh, Larhra – Lyon (France),

Léa Saint-Raymond, Ens – Paris (France),

Kim Oosterlinck, Université libre de Bruxelles (Belgium),