Spring 2025

The Art Market

Listed in: Art and the History of Art, as ARHA-263


Niko Vicario (Section 01)


This course investigates the relationship between art and commerce in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. What is the network of auctions, galleries, and fairs overseeing the buying and selling of works of art and how is value decided, constructed, and transformed in the process? How do we understand and calculate the value of art in both economic and symbolic terms? How do you buy and sell a work of performance art? What agency do artists possess in determining how their work operates in the market and how have artists played with the market since the 1960s? Finally, in what ways does the making, buying, and selling of works of art conform to and diverge from the operations of the economy at large? Using texts by Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen, Eve Chiapello, and Jean-Joseph Goux, among others, as a theoretical foundation, we will explore the relationship between works of art and commodities and the ways in which artists both embrace and critique the commercial side of the art world. We will also study the recent attention paid to the “dirty money” funding arts institutions and trace a longer history of this phenomenon and its contestation by artists, activists, and artist-activists.

Requisite: One course in the history of art or cultural studies or permission of the instructor. Recommended requisite: ARHA 155. Limited to 25 students. Spring 2025: Professor Vicario.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to sophomores, juniors, and seniors and students who have taken Introduction to Contemporary Art (ARHA-155)

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on written work, readings, independent research, oral presentation, visual analysis.

Course Materials