The Art of Representation

In the contemporary art field, artists engage with multiple audiences notably museums and galleries. Museums are mostly publicly funded by a diversity of stakeholders, while galleries are mostly owned by a small number of individuals seeking for profits. Accordingly, museums value the artistic quality of a work, while galleries value its commercial viability. They also face varying levels of accountability; museums face greater accountability pressure than galleries do, because of their public nature.

These differences in museums and galleries affect how different reputations can help artists’ career. In this paper examining the career of emerging artists in the contemporary art field, we find that artists who won prestigious awards for their artistic quality have a greater chance of exhibition at museums than at galleries. We also find that the reputation for artistic quality has greater effect when artists have exhibited in high-status museums, such as The Museum of Modern Art. However, the reputation for artistic quality is devalued if artists had many exhibitions with galleries.

These are not true for artists known for the commercial viability of their works. While these artists have a greater chance of getting gallery exhibitions, such a chance is not affected by their past record with high status galleries or with museums.

Ertug, G., Yogev, T., Lee, Y.G., & Hedstrom, P. (2016) “The Art of Representation: How AudienceSpecific Reputations Affect Success in the Contemporary Art Field”, Academy of Management Journal, 59(1):113-134

To download the paper, please click here.