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Does the price of a product say something about its quality? Are expensive paintings more beautiful than cheap ones? Are rare records better than popular records? [Nov 2006]

Fine arts pricing

The two auction houses through which prices for fine art are set, Sotheby's and Christie's, play such a strong role in making the art market that they have been taken to court on the accusation of antitrust violations. In the case mentioned previously (David Kramer v. The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, 1995), the auction houses were discussed as ``essential facilities'' under antitrust law. A collector who had bought what he believed to be a Jackson Pollock painting sued the two auction houses and the Pollock estate under antitrust law for forming a cartel. Because Pollock signed few of his paintings and has been much imitated, there is a certification board that provides the determinations as to whether or not a specific painting is actually by Jackson Pollock, which is relied upon by the auction houses before they will accept a painting for auction. The collector, who had bought a painting quite cheaply which he believed to be by Pollock, claimed that the certification board, run by the estate and others, had deprived him of income by not certifying his painting as a Pollock. Because, as a result, the auction houses would not accept his painting for sale at what the collector expected to be significantly more than what he had paid for the painting, he had been financially damaged. The auction houses and estate had a motive in restricting the number of certified Pollock paintings, he argued, in order to artificially sustain a particular price level by restricting the product. - Sandra Braman via Canadian Journal of Communication > Vol. 21, No. 2 (1996) via http://www.cjc-online.ca/viewarticle.php?id=361&layout=html

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