Generally considered as fully globalized, the contemporary art system is subject to network economies influencing the reciprocal power of national platforms and the existing hierarchies among players.
In order to provide an overview of the present scenario, the ASK Centre (Art, Science and Knowledge) of Università Bocconi chose, as an observatory, the most recognized and selective contemporary art fair: Art Basel. With a 40-year tradition and a peer committee inviting only world-recognized galleries, this fair gathers each year the élites of collectors, curators and museum directors.
Analysing Art Basel’s catalogues from 2005 to 2010, Stefano Baia Curioni, Laura Forti and Camilla Pietrabissa (ASK) were therefore able to trace the activities of a relevant group of the leading decision makers in the contemporary art system in the working paper National Platforms and the Global Art Market: Art Basel 2005-2010. On the whole they analyzed 450 galleries which, in the considered time span, negotiated the work of 6,200 artists.
How is the art system reacting to globalization? Do galleries show significant differences in promoting national artists? What is the “trade balance” among the galleries from different countries?
Evidently, Art Basel is characterized by the central and dominant position of a small number of countries. The results show that the institutional structure of the observed market seems to react to globalization by cooperating towards the enforcement of the stronger national players – United States, Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy – while emerging countries are now occupying a position which is differentiated but dependent upon the consolidated platforms.
And, even if the quantitative relevance of the central players is apparently preserved, only the strongest ones seem to gain an effective advantage. Italy and France are possibly less capable of protecting their positions among the younger generation of artists. This means that their positions may be challenged in the near future.