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Art Market & You : THE ART BARTER

Through Art Market & You, Art From Us provides you Analysis, Opinion and Factual Reports regarding the current on-goings of the Global Art Market. In this article, we explore The Art Barter.

The Art Barter

On 10th April, 2019, Artnet News reported a curious trend in the art world – that of the artist barter system.

The article read :

“Behind studio doors, outside the sphere of art dealers and collectors, artists are engaging in old-fashioned barter. By trading with peers and admirers, they can assemble holdings that rival any number of traditional big-money art collections.”

Today, we take a look at this trend and consider its repercussions on the art market.

The Facts

The article reports that artists, outside the jurisdiction and influence of institutions, trade their works with one another. This trade self monitored and dictated certain rules that the artists agree upon. Basic things, such as the value of the works being traded needs to match. The report further goes on to give examples of such barter trades that have taken place in the art world. Doug Aitken exchanged his Wilderness, 2006 for an untitled sculpture by Franz West. Judith Bernstein and Walter de Maria got exchanged art for getting each other out of a pickle at different times.


While there is technically nothing illegal about artists trading their works with one another, it certainly does raise some concerns for the market.

The most obvious threat is that of collusion. The possibility that two artists may agree to trade art with each other and then sell forward anonymously, through the tertiary market. In such a scenario, the artists may decide to unfairly inflate the price of each other’s work.

The barter system also dilutes the position of the art gallery, seeing as these trades are organised independently by artists.

It is undeniable that such trades will impact the market of each artist involved. The extent of such impact will be determined by the rules of the trade and the ultimate fate of the artwork and in whose hands it winds up.

To read more on facts and opinions, visit Art Market & You.

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