The History of Art Markets
Methodological Considerations from Art History and Cultural Economics
Quantitative historical art markets research’s position at the crossroads between economics and art history poses serious methodological and theoretical challenges to two distinct groups of scholars while also embracing an aggregate vision of art that often employs digital tools. In this paper, we analyze two bodies of literature—art market research within art history and art market research within cultural economics—to assess their respective approaches and methodological distance. Our research highlights a set of desirable components for an innovative, interdisciplinary approach that speaks to both of these scholars using examples of recent publications that show strengths in these areas, stressing the importance of standardizing, diversifying, and sharing data among art market researchers; arguing for minimal standards for statistical analysis, to better consider and reflect the realities of art markets and related data; and providing suggestions for improving communication between disciplines, with collaboration being a clear option for achieving these goals. Based on these suggestions, this paper encourages the development of a hybrid discipline that overcomes the dichotomy between art history and cultural economics and make the most of digital tools’ potential for data gathering and analysis.