The Forthcoming National Women's History Museum and its Effects on the Market for Women Art

Reflecting on the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first female, Black, and South Asian Vice President of the United States, we are shining a light on the National Women’s History Museum. After a decades-long effort, the establishment of the museum is a major recognition of women’s contributions to American society.


The planning and publicity surrounding the development of this museum will likely generate a heightened interest in work by women artists, and possibly, and possibly help raise their value over time. There has been a great deal of pressure on galleries and museums to feature more exhibitions, acquire more work by women artists, and become more inclusive institutions in general. For example, the Art Institute of Chicago is currently hosting the exhibit Bisa Butler: Portraits, showcasing twenty of the artist’s portrait quilts exploring historical narratives of Black life. Amidst dreariness of the coronavirus pandemic, the engaging and vibrant works have attracted and excited many visitors.


Over time, the establishment of the National Women’s History Museum may contribute to the already-growing rise in the monetary value of work by women artists. Market forces are the various internal and external forces that impact the monetary value of property. What do appraisers consider in assessing the monetary value of property? According to The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, “value” is defined as “the monetary relationship between properties and those who buy, sell, or use those properties, expressed as an opinion of the worth of a property at any given time.”


Rosalba Carriera, America, ca. 1730; Pastel on paper mounted on canvas, 16 1/2 x 13 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Purchased with funds donated by Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth


According to the International Society of Appraisers Core Course in Appraisal Studies, there are three major categories of market forces: the attitudes and perceptions of participants, external forces affecting value, and internal relevant characteristics.


First, market participants have attitudes and perceptions which influence how they react to certain relevant characteristics. Attitudes and perceptions have many effects on the market. One is the bandwagon effect, which causes the price of an item to increase because of the demand by a large group of buyers who want to own the item. For example, Instagram postings of selfies in the Infinity Mirror Rooms by Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama attracted massive attention to her work. The social media popularity of her work encouraged many retailers, such as Uniqlo and the MoMA Design Store, to sell wares bearing her signature polka-dots. Thus, the bandwagon effect is one reason causing the price of works by female artists to rise.


Second, there are external forces which can affect value – such as changes in society at large. When a society's demographics shift, this can cause shifts in the public's taste and affect the value of collectible items. Recent blockbusters such as The Queen’s Gambit and Wonder Woman 1984 demonstrate a parting with films marketed for almost exclusively female audiences. They feature strong female leads who have interests and qualities appealing to both sexes. In 2021, the US government now reflects significant social changes as Kamala Harris is the first female, Black, and South Asian Vice President of the United States. Her position as second-in-command will bring more attention to women political leaders in the United States. These social changes will, hopefully, be mirrored in the American art market over time.

Third, each item of personal property contains its own unique relevant characteristics or “value characteristics” which determine its level of desirability to potential buyers. The authorship of an item is perhaps the most significant of these characteristics. Typically, greater visibility for an artist, if their work is well-received, will generate greater sales. The 2019 Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report explored gender disparities in the art market, specifically the underrepresentation of female artists. Its 2019 Art Report illustrates that female artists represented 33% of artists in global exhibitions in 2018 as compared to 4% of artists in global exhibitions in 1900. Additionally, Yayoi Kusama and Joan Mitchell ranked among the 20 Top-Selling Post-War and Contemporary artists in 2018. Over time, it is likely that women artists who are increasingly being recognized will benefit from a greater desire for their works on both the primary and secondary markets.


Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura), c. 1638-39; Oil on canvas, 98.6 x 75.2 cm; Royal Collection Trust; Photo by David Short.


In the next few years, it is likely that the above market forces will positively affect the monetary value of art created by women artists. Basic economic principles, such as supply and demand, have shown us that demand from a large group of buyers will subsequently affect the prices that individuals are willing to pay for whatever interests them-- in this case, art by women artists. The growing visibility of women in high positions in American government is but one example of a social trend that will likely have ripple effects that subsequently affects the value of art by women artists. Monetary concerns aside, it is the greater recognition and representation of women artists in museum exhibitions and galleries that we should all celebrate.


Sources:


Dafoe, Taylor. “After Decades of Lobbying, Congress Has Approved the Creation of New Smithsonian Museums for American Latinos and Women’s History.” artnet news. Accessed January 2, 2021. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/congress-approved-national-museum-american-latino-womens-history-1933648.


U.S. Congress, House, United States-Mexico Economic Partnership Act, HR 133, 116th Cong., Congressional Record 166, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/133/actions.


“Lesson 6: Appraisal Theory, Part 6—Market Forces.” In Core Course in Appraisal Studies, edited by Meredith Meuwly, 6-1 – 6-7. Chicago: International Society of Appraisers, 2020.

"United States of America.” United States Census Bureau. Accessed January 2, 2021. https://data.census.gov/cedsci/profile?g=0100000US


McAndrew, Clare. “The Art Market 2017: An Art Market & UBS Report.” Art Basel. Accessed January 2, 2021. https://d33ipftjqrd91.cloudfront.net/asset/cms/Art_Basel_and_UBS_The_Art_Market_2017.pdf.


McAndrew, Clare. “The Art Market 2019: An Art Market & UBS Report.” Art Basel. Accessed January 2, 2021. https://d2u3kfwd92fzu7.cloudfront.net/The_Art_Market_2019-5.pdf.




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