Art and the Veblen Effect - artmarketblog.com No, itís not a typo or a made up word - there is such a thing as a Veblen Effect. First of all, a Veblen good is basically a type of status symbol that people purchase...
News-Antique.com - Jan 20,2009 - No, itís not a typo or a made up word - there is such a thing as a Veblen Effect. First of all, a Veblen good is basically a type of status symbol that people purchase because it is expensive and is perceived as an exclusive and luxury item which suggests that they (the purchaser) are wealthy and belong to a high social class. This good is desirable primarily because of itís cost and the positive effect the item has on peopleís perception of the financial and social status of the owner. Therefore, when the cost of a Veblen good declines, the desirability of the good also declines because it is seen as being less exclusive and less representative of wealth and a high social status. Things such as diamonds, expensive luxury cars (Bentley, Rolls Royce) and high end wines are considered to be Veblen goods as is fine art - in particular, contemporary art.
If you think about the contemporary art market during the height of the art market boom, the prices being paid for many of the works by contemporary artists were completely unjustifiable in terms of value for money and the reasons for the rapid increase in price. In my opinion, the best example of the Veblen effect is the work of Damien Hirst whose work appeared top have benefited greatly from the wealthy trophy buyers whose prime motivation was prestige and status. Hirst even hedged his bets by using copious amounts of diamonds to cover the infamous skull and used diamond dust in some of his works. Even if the art wasnít so great the diamonds are sure to attract those seeking a way of decorating their house with objects that reflect their level of wealth. One could even argue that Hirst was specifically catering for the wealthy trophy hunters by producing works that they would find highly attractive such as the diamond encrusted human skull.
I donít think that anyone could disagree with me if I was to suggest that the work of Hirst would be less desirable if it decreased in price because that is exactly what we are seeing at the moment. Considering that Hirst was one of the most sought after and desirable artistís during the peak of the art market boom one would presume that the same would be the case during the market correction. Although there has been a general decrease in the price being paid for works of art across the board there is still plenty of money available and plenty of money being spent on the most desirable works of art. Had the work of Hirst not been able to be classed as a Veblen good then more people would have been snapping up the works currently on the market (regardless of the financial crisis) which can be purchased for considerably less than they they were sold for a year ago. Those discounted works by Hirst that are currently on the market and have been offered for sale