In 2016, Paulo Tenani, who has been a professor at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas School of Economics for 20 years, created a study group on the Economics of the Art Market within FGV Invest, the institution's study center. Two years later, he and the group were joined by his former classmate at the University of São Paulo, Katya Hochleitner, whose academic career took off, after her bachelor's degree in Economic Sciences, for a master's degree in Aesthetics and Art History and a PhD in Aesthetics and History of Art, both at USP. Over the course of seven years, the group has grown, now comprising over 60 members. With the pandemic, it expanded its borders abroad, through videoconference meetings, attracting participants from Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul and the USA. Consolidated, the group holds on September 21st the I Academic Seminar on Economics of the Art Market, an event that is open for work proposals until 30/6.

According to a press release from FGV, the objective of the event is “to generate a space for discussion for academics, researchers and professionals in the art market, promoting and disseminating scientific and applied research related to the economy of the art market”. For Tenani, the seminar is a natural development of the study group, which sought to cover all existing literature on the subject. “Until 2020, we tried to find out who the professionals were, where they were and what publications already existed. From there came the first theses. There were also several courses related to the subject at school, first at graduation, in which the student adds culture to his market studies. And then came an MBA in the area. Now is the time to expand the frontiers of knowledge through the seminar”, says the professor. Hochleitner points out that the event “is a celebration of our study group, which opens itself to the world, with the objective of reducing the lack of transparency in the market”.

The lack of transparency, points out Hochleitner, is one of the obstacles to the growth of the art market in Brazil. According to her, the so-called informational asymmetry, that is, the inequality in the level of information between different market agents – art galleries, dealers, auction houses, etc. –, can cause artificially high prices and favor, for example, the commercialization of counterfeit works, economic aspects that impede the expansion of the market.

Tenani compares the Brazilian art market to the financial one, in the 1980s, “when he lived under the rule of Naji Nahas”, a Lebanese businessman based in the country, who acted as a speculator and in 1989 was accused of being responsible for the collapse of the Stock Exchange of Rio de Janeiro. “People were afraid to go in. The financial market created institutions to overcome this. The art market has also been trying and, if one day it manages to overcome it, maybe it can grow like the financial one has. Seeing other cases to better understand what goes on in art is fundamental”, says Tenani. The economist argues that, although the comparison is not welcome for many people in the segment, the luxury market can teach lessons to the art market. "Both have the same type of consumer, among other characteristics in common".

Hochleitner laments the lack of periodic market studies, such as the The Art Market, held annually by Art Basel and the UBS bank, and in which Brazil appears only in the regional context of Latin America. Until 2018, the Brazilian Association of Contemporary Art released a sectoral survey, but the work was paused. “It was the best we had in Brazil, until that year. But that Abact report was limited to associated galleries only and didn't have such a detailed quantitative focus on sales,” says the professor.

Regarding the state of the art market in Brazil, Hochleitner argues that its economy is directly linked to that of the country. When the Brazilian economy was doing well, the art market followed the trend, with national fairs receiving several important foreign galleries, such as White Cube and Gagosian, among others. “In 2013, Brazil was the hottest thing, according to The Art Market, which nowadays points its focus to China, Africa and has also highlighted the Russian market. In the early 2010s, Brazil appeared on the cover of the British magazine The Economist as a country on the rise, with Christ the Redeemer rising like a rocket. From the moment that China exploded and went international, our market really turned inwards. And those who buy art in Brazil are the few collectors ever”, he concludes.

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