We are very happy to let you know about this publication by Svetlana Kharchenkova & Olav Velthuis!
This article studies the role of judgment devices in the emergence of markets for singularities. In particular, it seeks to understand how specific judgment devices become dominant in resolving uncertainty within these markets. Building on Karpik’s seminal theory, we argue that institutional environments (e.g. government regulations, political-economic factors, the level of informality within business environments) as well as the level of expertise of consumers, co-determine which devices come to be used in new markets. Empirically, we focus on the emerging market for contemporary art in China. While auctions and auction prices are widely used in valuing contemporary art in China, this is highly illegitimate in international art markets. We argue that auctions act as a judgment device in China because of strong government backing, because other validating organizations, such as museums and art critics, are seen as untrustworthy, and because auctions send strong, easily interpretable signals to novice collectors.
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