The market for modern art in New York in the nineteen forties and nineteen fifties : a structural and historical survey
The nineteen forties and nineteen fifties, acknowledged as the decades in which New York first emerged as a locus for modern art production of international stature (particularly the so-called 'New York School '), also witnessed its development into a market for modern art, both European and American, and it is upon this that this study focuses. A modern art market is a 'support-system' which consists of not only the producer-artists and consumer-collectors but also of a number of 'intermediaries'. This complex, in addition to the actual purchase of art works, serves, for instance: to disseminate a knowledge about modern art in general; to select particular artists and promote their work in the public eye; to support contemporary artists financially; and to enhance the sphere of collecting activity. The groups or institutions involved in these functions vary according to historical circumstances, and the first part of this study identifies the key constituents of the 'support-system' in the New York art market in this period as: New York museums concerned with modern and contemporary art, both foreign and native, private dealer-galleries, and collectors; and examines what parts each played in the structure of the art market as a whole, paying particular attention to the influence of wider socio-economic factors upon this. This 'support-system' structure discussed in the first part may be considered as synchronic. The second part of this study, however, concentrates upon an examination of changing trends in prices and in collectors' preferences for different artistic expressions (particularly the relative status of American as against European modern art). Emphasis is placed in this upon demonstrating where possible how such developments were related to the functioning of the support system as discussed; and to situating the behaviour of the New York art market of the period into a wider national socio-economic context.