TIAMSA Blog: Tools for the Future in Ljubljana: Researching art markets in legal perspective and the online turn in scientific conferences

By Andrej Srakar, Institute for Economic Research (IER) and University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Short summary: Beginning of September was the time for the fifth workshop in the series Tools for the Future: Researching Art Market Practices from Past to Present. The workshop took place online in organization of the France Stele Institute of Art History of the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU). Its topic was the role of legislation and legal regulators in the art market and included some of the best researchers on art markets at the intersection of art history, legal studies and cultural economics.

International Workshop Series Tools for the Future: Researching Art Market Practices from Past to Present was established in 2017 by Elisabetta Lazzaro of HKU University of the Arts Utrecht, Nathalie Moureau of Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3 and Adriana Turpin of IESA, Paris, and Society for the History of Collecting.

Through individual presentations followed by group discussions, the workshops series aimed at bringing together international scholars and professionals from different disciplines, periods of study and areas of practice of the art market to confront key issues and related methods that can be used to interpret, analyze and operate through the structures and principals of the art market. Previous workshops were on art collectors (Montpellier, June 2018), the artist as an entrepreneur (Utrecht, December 2018), formation and development of new markets (London, June 2019) and communication strategies (Rome, November 2019).

The fifth workshop, organised by the France Stele Institute of Art History ZRC SAZU (coordinators were Dr. Renata Komić Marn and Dr. Tina Košak), addressed the role of legislation and legal regulators in the art market. The relationship between law and art can be traced back to the Middle Ages when the workshop and apprenticeship rules and guild statutes determined artists’ and other agents’ working tasks, regulating production, ensuring quality and enabling fair marketing and dissemination. Since the early modern period, estate law has defined (and limited) inheritance and ownership of artworks. While contracts with clients controlled the quality, realization, delivering and on-time payment of private and collective artistic commissions, contracts between artists determined standards of cooperation.

Legal Drama in Artworks: Pieter Breughel the Younger, The Village Lawyer, ca. 1621, Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent. Wikimedia Commons. Source: Daily Art Magazine.

With the rise of auction houses from the 17th century onwards, governments have tried to control auctioneering practices and increase transparency, issues which remain relevant to the market today. Similar considerations apply nowadays for on-line trade and digitization of artworks, transactions and consumption, including cryptocurrencies and blockchain. The early modern period also saw the origins of copyright law, with privileges and censorship over reproductions sharply differing across Europe. Throughout the 19th century, copyright regulations were still nationally oriented, thereby resulting in national legislations obstructing or encouraging the international expansion of markets. Since the 20th century, we have witnessed the internationalization and globalization of laws, which are still in progress.

The workshop took place virtually on the 7th and 8th of September, 2020, using the platform Zoom. It featured researchers from Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, UK and USA. Keynotes from Sophie Raux of University Lyon 2 and Alicja Jagielska-Burduk of UNESCO Chair on Cultural Property Law at the University of Opole in Poland were on the topics of regulating the visibility and circulation of works of art on the market and art market’s legal challenges. In general, online discussions have been lively and the final remarks from Adriana Turpin indicated the event was a success.

The field of research on art markets in general is experiencing growth in recent years, in particular with the establishment of The International Art Market Studies Association (TIAMSA) with its several Subsections and Groups. The field which is at the crossroads of two larger streams of thought, art history and economics (including sociology, legal studies and other disciplines), promises interesting scientific interactions in future.

Role of the guilds – Life of St. Denis, presented to King Philip V in 1317. Source: State University of New York College at Oneonta.

The online workshop of ZRC SAZU pointed to the legal aspects of the art markets: The role of the guilds and historical groupings of people involved in the art markets, the role of copyright legislation, policy aspects (intersection of policy and legal aspects for art markets), legislative measures in the area of art collecting, the genesis of individual country art markets, art markets in Central and Eastern Europe, international trade with artworks, legislative aspects for artworks in museums and the deaccessioning phenomenon, street art, classification of artworks in terms of legal and economic aspects and other topics were featured with interesting presentations.

The sixth workshop of this series will be organized at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle & IESA Arts & Culture in Paris on 11-12 June 2021. The workshop’s topic will be the financial strategies of the art market and the ways in which international or national financial structures influence the ability to purchase or the need to sell.unclear what you mean by produce.  Produce art?. Money?  The workshop will feature a keynote by Prof. Bruno Frey, University of Basel and Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts, Switzerland.

To my opinion, the online workshop in Ljubljana confirmed the necessity and benefits that online scientific interactions can bring and can change the present landscape of research. Communication with scholars across the globe has become a daily feature and globalization has expanded scientific interaction. Where this will lead only the future will be able to tell but it is apparent that scientific interactions have been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes are likely to last. Workshops such as these demonstrate new possibilities and benefits.

With Trilce Navarrete Hernandez (co-founding member of renowned cultural economic blog, including posts on art markets from the economic perspective, EconomicsTalkArt.org) and Brownyn Coate, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Association for Cultural Economics International (ACEI), we will follow the above described “globalized vibe” and coordinate an international team of researchers in the organization of the online seminar series in cultural economics in the framework of Association for Cultural Economics International (ACEI). This team will feature research on art markets and on cultural economics in its broadest sense, including its micro, macro and methodological aspects. 

Author: Andrej Srakar, PhD, PhDc, Asst. Prof., Institute for Economic Research (IER) and University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Chair, TIAMSA Central Eastern Europe (CEE) Group, Co-Editor, Cultural Economics & the Creative Economy Book Series (Palgrave Macmillan), Chair, Association of Compendium Experts Board, Compendium of Cultural Policies & Trends.