Department of Economics

Prices for Paintings by African American Artists and Their Contemporaries: Does Race Matter?

Department of Economics
University of Delaware
Working Paper #2008-06

Prices for Paintings by African American Artists and Their Contemporaries: Does Race Matter?

(Revision of Working Paper No. 2006-06)

Richard Agnello and Xiaowen Xu

ABSTRACT

This paper investigates the extent that economic markets have incorporated mainstream artistic acceptance of African American art. Price levels and movements for paintings by African American artists versus their white contemporaries are compared using auction data from 1972 to 2004. Means in the aggregate as well as individually are found to be significantly lower for African American artists in almost every case. Hedonic regressions are used to refine the statistical analysis by controlling for factors characterizing the painting and auction environment. In the regressions significant differences persist between the two groups with African American artists experiencing lower price levels but higher price appreciation throughout the period. The price gap thus appears to be narrowing indicating a possible convergence of economic reality and artistic appreciation. In addition, the higher investment returns for paintings by African American artists made them a relatively profitable art niche in recent years and possibly for the future since economic values have not completely converged for the two groups.
 

JEL Codes: Z11, G12, D44
 

Keywords: Economics of Art, Painting Prices, African American Painters, Hedonic Regression

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