The art trade has always been viewed with great fascination, but also with scepticism and even suspicion. Although its worldwide turnover is relatively modest in comparison with most other markets for luxury goods, the art market’s mechanisms, its peak prices and its scandals, attract a seemingly disproportionate amount of public attention. This attention comes not only from the press and (social) media, but also from film and fiction, where extravagant art trade settings speak of passion and money while dealers are variously cast as educated, smart, eccentric or untrustworthy.
The art trade’s flirtations with the limelight and dealers’ careful self-fashioning of their image have a long history. For time immemorial, collecting art has been an essential part of public and private representation and the trade’s role in this system becomes increasingly evident today. Again and again, art market players have operated with glamorous gatherings and media-rich appearances at fairs, auctions and special events. Art dealers have also promoted their business by polishing their expertise, networks and appearance, thus underscoring the social functions of art. Generations of dealers, even across dynasties, have maintained their position in the international marketplace by socializing with celebrities, politicians, museum professionals and scholars. Indeed some of them, such as Pierre Jean Mariette, John Smith, or Frits Lugt, were distinguished scholars themselves.
Scientific expertise, connoisseurship and institutional clout thus sometimes appear as odd bedfellows of commercial acumen. Similarly, calls for transparency regularly clash with the players’ wish for discretion, while due diligence – also with regard to the origin of objects – sometimes assumes a secondary role when overshadowed by deft marketing strategies or even manipulative operations. Indeed, the often contradictory magnetic fields at work in this market may be fundamental to its high flying public profile. The TIAMSA Conference 2022, organized in cooperation with Technische Universität Berlin and the Liebermann Villa Berlin, aims to shed light on the hitherto rarely studied image of the art market, its players and their self-fashioning.
For all inquiries regarding the conference, please contact Inna Schill: firstname.lastname@example.org