The “Death Effect” on Artists’ Prices Actually Occurs When They’re Alive


Interesting article from Artsy.

The “Death Effect” on Artists’ Prices Actually Occurs When They’re Alive

In their recent book The Economics of American Art, Ekelund and Jackson, both professors emeritus at Auburn University in Alabama, and the late Robert D. Tollison lay out the case for what could be more accurately called the “betting on a forthcoming funeral effect.” By examining auction records for 17 American post-war artists, they found that, on average, prices rise steadily in the five years preceding an artist’s death, and plummet the year she or he dies.

“It has everything to do with the [buyer’s] assessment of whether the artist will overproduce or spoil the market of what they buy,” said Ekelund. “If an artist is 95 years old, you know pretty well that the supply is going to end pretty soon, and the supplier can’t spoil the market.”

Ekelund and Jackson tested their hypothesis by examining 6,118 auction records for paintings created by 17 post-war artists (14 of whom were men) who died between 1987 and 2013. For the artists examined, they found a steady uptick in price of 6% on average in the five years preceding death, followed by a roughly equivalent drop in the year of their death, a fall of 26% on average. After that, prices typically began to climb again. They controlled for factors such as size of the painting, the age of the artist, and the medium. Ekelund, in an earlier study of Mexican artists, had found a similar pattern.


Very interesting! Thanks for sharing.


Cool how this is the same effect as when artists have different style periods, because you know that the supply of a certain kind of work is going to end