Art markets in crisis: how personal bonds and market subcultures mediate the effects of COVID-19

Larissa Buchholz, Gary Alan Fine*, Hannah Wohl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examine how the contemporary art market has changed as a result of the disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus. Based on interviews with artists, collectors, a dealer, and an auction house executive, we argue that the decline of face-to-face interaction, previously essential to art market transactions, has placed strain on each corner of the community. In the absence of physical co-presence with the artworks and art world actors, participants struggle to evaluate and appreciate artworks, make new social ties, develop trust, and experience a shared sense of pleasure and collective effervescence. These challenges especially impact the primary gallery market, where participants emphasize a communal commitment to art above instrumental speculation, which is more accepted in the secondary auction market. We find a transition to distant online communication, but the likelihood of this continuing after the lockdowns end and the virus dissipates varies according to the subcultures of these market segments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Cultural Sociology
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Art market
  • Globalization
  • Interaction
  • Markets
  • Online

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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