Art at Auction. A Record of Records

ecture by Christophe Spaenjers
May 30th, 2014

Christophe Spaenjers is an economist from Belgium, known in the contemporary field of art for his historical research on the art market. »Art and Money«, available in two papers co-authored with William Goetzmann (Yale University) and Luc Renneboog (Tilburg University) in 2010 and 2011, is his best known work in this context. Last but not least, this is due to the reception by US-American artist Andrea Fraser. She referred to the correlations between inequality of income on the one hand and art prices on the other at the macro level of society demonstrated by these economists. She did this not only in her widely read essay »L’1%, c’est moi« (Texte zur Kunst Nr. 83, 2011) – in the title an allusion to Louis XIV and Gustave Flaubert as well as to the inequality research by the Thomas Piketty network and the Occupy Wall Street movement–, but also in her artistic contribution to the Whitney Biennial 2012 in New York. There she wrote: »Recent economic research has linked the steep increase in art prices over the past decades directly to this growing inequality, indicating that a one percentage point increase in the share of total income earned by the top 0.1% triggers an increase in art prices of about 14 percent« (Andrea Fraser, »There’s No Place Like Home«, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, 2012, S. 29).

The presentation of Christophe Spaenjers, followed by a workshop with him, will be based on his recent research in cooperation with William Goetzmann. Spaenjers describes aims, methodology and results of this research in the following way: »We construct a series of art auction record prices over more than three centuries. We use this new database as a lens through which to review and reflect upon the existing knowledge on the determinants of the price of art (and other durable luxury assets). While hedonic models do a reasonable job in explaining the cross-sectional variation in art prices, and also the link between macro-economic cycles and price levels has been demonstrated, our set of records points to the limitations of existing models. Auction price records are often set in cases of extreme supply constraints coupled with idiosyncratic shifts from hedonic weights and/or instances of social competition.«

Dr. Christophe Spaenjers is an Assistant Professor of Finance at École des hautes études commerciales (HEC) Paris since 2011. He received his PhD from Tilburg University in the same year. During his PhD, he also visited London Business School, Columbia Business School, New York City, and the International Center for Finance at Yale University, New Haven, CT. He has published in journals such as the Journal of Financial Economics, American Economic Review (P&P), Management Science, or Oxford Economic Papers.

The lecture is based on a cooperation of KIM, Innovation Incubator at Leuphana University of Lüneburg with Kunstraum of Leuphana University of Lüneburg. The Innovation-Incubator Lüneburg is an EU major project, financed by the European Regional Development Fund and co-funded by the federal state of Lower Saxony.