Art trade

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The art dealer Ambroise Vollard , painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The term art market refers to the commercial air action with artwork . In the art market, a distinction is made between primary and secondary markets . While collectors and galleries are active on the primary market, art dealers in the narrower sense buy and sell works of art on the market (secondary market). Galleries that do arts and crafts in this sense are therefore also referred to as secondary market galleries. However, primary market galleries often take on the resale and resale of works by the artists they represent.


In the emerging cities of the Middle Ages, artists held the social status of craftsmen . They were organized in guilds or guilds and produced works of art for high-ranking and wealthy personalities, for free cities, princes and royal courts as well as church institutions and were remunerated for them like craftsmen according to effort and material consumption. At the end of the Middle Ages, the handicraft partially switched from customer production to goods production, with the result that the artists were more and more dependent on trading with the products of their workshops on the street or in the market. They traveled from town to town to offer their works. On his travels to Italy and the Netherlands , Albrecht Dürer also ran an "extensive trade in his own and third-party engravings". At the time of the Renaissance , the leading artists were court artists or privileged purveyors to the court who were tied to the court and rulers through personal patronage . One can only speak of an art trade in the modern sense after the Renaissance. With the loosening of the patronage of art, professional art dealers appeared in Rome in the early 17th century, but initially only played an important role for young and inexperienced artists. As soon as an artist gained a reputation, “he only worked in dire need for a dealer” who was “badly written by the painters and the public”.

An art market in today's sense first emerged in the Netherlands in the 17th century . For Rembrandt , who got along badly with clients, it offered the welcome opportunity to shake off the dependencies of the patronage and commissioning system.

Actors in the art trade

The art dealer plays a key role in contact with the public. He must be able to win wealthy enthusiasts, especially collectors , museum people or other traders, to buy his "goods". In addition, art dealers often have contact with individual artists and therefore also have a certain share in establishing new art movements .

The modern art trade is mainly carried out by galleries , art dealers and auction houses , but also takes place in the form of art fairs (e.g. Art Basel or Art Cologne ), markets for antiques or internet auctions.

Individual art dealers and patrons

Portrait of Alfred Gold at the age of 30 by Moritz Coschell , Berlin 1904

In the activities of individuals, an understanding of art and patronage are mixed . Paul Durand-Ruel, for example, had decisively promoted the Impressionists and their art with his understanding of art by organizing exhibitions in the Rue Lafitte in Paris, among other places. Ambroise Vollard , Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and Paul Rosenberg and Georges Wildenstein promoted Pablo Picasso . Alfred Gold belonged to the Viennese Modernism of the late 19th century, to the “Jeunesse dorée” in Vienna and Berlin, and worked for several years in Paris as a buyer and shop steward for the international art trade.

The role of auction houses

Since the middle of the 18th century, the art auction gained importance in England and France. The auction houses Sotheby’s (1744) and Christie’s (1766) were founded in London . The Hôtel Drouot (founded in 1852) in Paris later played a similar role . In Germany, the art auction system did not develop until the second half of the 19th century, especially in Berlin, Munich and Cologne.

The role of the galleries

The galleries are to be distinguished from the art trade in the narrower sense . As the “gatekeepers of the art market”, they usually represent individual artists or a limited number of artists on a contractual basis. Individual patrons also play a role here. There are galleries for individual artists and for specific styles. The spectrum of the art gallery is very diverse, the catalogs and presentations offered in connection with the respective exhibitions provide important information for the art trade itself.

Stolen works of art, robbery and forgeries

States and art dealers have taken various measures and set up institutions to prevent thieves , fences and robbers from selling their criminally acquired items in the art trade.

  • The Lost Art Register of the Lost Art Coordination Office Magdeburg documents Nazi- looted art and looted art . There are around 110,000 cultural objects detailed and several million described in summary form.
  • The Art Loss Register is a large international database in which stolen and stolen works of art are registered and made easily traceable over the Internet. The origin of the register was the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR), a non-profit organization headquartered in New York, which founded an art theft archive in 1976 with the aim of curbing international art theft and began to publish the "Stolen Art Alert". The eventually around 20,000 handwritten entries in the register could hardly be used in practice. The decision to make this register manageable by computer led to the creation of The Art Loss Register by insurance and art companies in London in 1991. The intensive use of the register led to the recovery of works of art (up to 2008) worth 230 million euros, including Paul Cézanne , Still Life with a Water Jug, Stolen 1978, Found 1999, Édouard Manet , Still Life with Peaches, Stolen 1977, Found 1997, Pablo Picasso , Woman in White, Reading a Book, Stolen 1940, Found 2005.

In recent times, art forgeries have played an increasing role, which is viewed very critically. Experts assume that 40–60% of the works offered in the art trade can be counterfeit. The front runner in the counterfeit ranking is Salvador Dalí . Robert Descharnes , Dalí's last secretary, said that around 90 percent of all Dalí graphics on offer did not come from the master himself.

Well-known art dealers and gallery owners (= G)


See also


  • Dirk Boll: Art can be bought - a clear view of the art market. 2nd Edition. Cantz, Ostfildern 2011, ISBN 978-3-7757-2814-0 .
  • Michael Findlay: From the value of art , Prestel, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-7913-4639-7 .
  • Francis Haskell: painter and client. Art and Society in the Italian Baroque. DuMont, Cologne 1996, ISBN 3-7701-3757-4 .
  • Michael North: The Golden Age. Art and Commerce in 17th Century Dutch Painting. 2nd Edition. Böhlau, Cologne 2001, ISBN 3-412-13700-6 .
  • Hans Peter Thurn : The art dealer. Changes in a profession. Hirmer, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-7774-6360-4 .
  • Antje-Katrin Uhl: The trade in handicrafts in the European internal market. Free movement of goods versus national protection of cultural property. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-428-07921-3 .
  • Wolfram Völcker (Ed.): What does art cost? , A manual for collectors, gallery owners, dealers and artists, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2011, ISBN 978-3-7757-2792-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Art trade  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Archives, associations

Integrity of the art trade


  1. Sebastian Stahl: Value Creation in Contemporary Art - Zur: Young German Art , Potsdam 2008, p. 36ff.
  2. Alessandro Conti: The way of the artist. From craftsman to virtuoso. Berlin 1998.
  3. Berit Wagner: Pictures without a client. The art trade in the 15th and early 16th centuries. With reflections on culture transfer . Imhof Verlag, Petersberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-86568-627-5
  4. Martin Hürlimann (Vorw.): The Atlantis Book of Art. An encyclopedia of the fine arts . Atlantis-Verlag, Zurich 1952, p. 737 f.
  5. Martin Warnke : The court artist. On the prehistory of the modern artist. 2nd edition Cologne 1996.
  6. ^ Francis Haskell : painter and client. Art and Society in the Italian Baroque . DuMont, Cologne 1996, p. 177.
  7. ^ Michael North: Art and Commerce in the Golden Age. On the social history of Dutch painting in the 17th century. Cologne 1992.
  8. ^ Svetlana Alpers : Rembrandt as an entrepreneur. His studio and the market . DuMont, Cologne 1989, pp. 198ff.
  9. Martin Hürlimann (Vorw.): The Atlantis Book of Art. An encyclopedia of the fine arts , Zurich 1952, p. 739
  10. ( Memento of the original from February 18, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. : The Art, the Myth, and the Artist , accessed October 8, 2010. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. Martin Hürlimann (Vorw.): The Atlantis Book of Art. An encyclopedia of the fine arts , Zurich 1952, p. 740
  12. ^ Heines von Alemann: Galleries as gatekeepers of the art market . In: Jürgen Gerhards (Ed.): Sociology of Art . Opladen 1997, pp. 211-239.
  13. Archived copy ( memento of the original from September 14, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. ^ The Art Loss Register ( Memento January 7, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), accessed September 20, 2012
  15. ^ Nils Graefe: Die Landeskriminaler. Expert for art forgeries from the LKA. (Welzheimer Zeitung, June 16, 2014. Online .)