RAND Reports on the Arts

The RAND Corporation recently issued a study on the visual arts that throws cold water on the over-optimistic picture that art museums are being successful in reaching out to the public.

Not so quick. RAND writes:

bq. The growth in museum attendance in recent years is primarily a product of population growth and higher education levels rather than a result of efforts by museums to attract larger and more diverse audiences. Underlying social trends ””? driven by changing leisure patterns, increasing population diversity, and more intense competition from the entertainment and leisure industries ””? suggest new growth in demand will not come easily.

Blockbuster shows may bring in a more diverse audience, RAND concludes, but that audience isn't staying.

Art is a niche market, albeit a wealthy one (for those artists and dealers lucky and canny enough to rise to the top). Nor should we hold any faith that art critics hold any sway over the market, the study suggests. On the contrary, the ever-more-thorough capitalization of art is sidelining the critic.

bq. At the same time that prices have reached headline-grabbing heights, the arts market has become increasingly like other asset markets. The value of an artist's work is determined not, as was traditionally the case, by the consensus of experts, but increasingly by a small number of affluent buyers who are drawn to purchase works for their potential investment value.

See A Portrait of the Visual Arts: Meeting the Challenges Of A New Era