Glass Ceilings in the Art Market?

Fabian Bocart (Artnet Corporation)
Marina Gertsberg (Maastricht University)
Rachel Pownall (Maastricht University)

Abstract: We provide strong empirical evidence of decreasing barriers for female artists in a market historically characterized by high gender inequality using an exclusive data set consisting of the population of fine art transactions for Western artists since the millennium. First, controlling for artwork characteristics, we find an average price premium of 4.4% for artworks by female artists at auction driven by female lots from older generations. This reflects larger structural barriers prevalent in the past resulting in a selection of more talented women to enter the profession. Second, while we still find that contemporary female artists are less likely to transition from the primary (gallery) into the secondary (auction) market than male artists we also show a larger increase in the number of female artists traded at auction as well as convergence in average prices between men and women. Lastly, we shot that the superstar effect, where a small number of individuals absorb the majority of industry rewards, prevails; at the top 0.1% of the market, artworks by female artists are traded at a discount of 20%. Overall, we show that as women are becoming more recognized they are breaking through the glass ceiling by moving more into the previously male dominated space at the top end of the art market. Our study has important implications for industries characterized by a superstar effect, information asymmetries and inertia towards underrepresented groups.