Impact of gender bias on pricing of art

Gender & Finance Literature Review Series #7: Adams, Kräussl, Navone and Verwijmeren (2017)

In this G&F LRS #7, we analyze the following research paper:

Adams RB, Kräussl R, Navone MA, Verwijmeren P. 2017. Is gender in the eye of the beholder? Identifying cultural attitudes with art auction prices. Working paper. Goethe University.

This paper allows us to understand the gender bias in art auction prices. Adams et al. (2017) concentrate only on the demand side of the problem i.e. they look at pricing of art in auction houses. They assume that there is no problem with the supply of art by female artists.

What is the methodology used by the authors?

The authors used two experiments to draw inferences on the relationship between gender of the artist and prices of the paintings. The first experiment included asking the population to guess the gender of the artist by observing a pre-decided list of paintings. The participants also had to provide a number that they would bid foreach of the paintings. This experiment helped the authors to analyze two aspects. Firstly, it helped them to analyze whether it is obvious that a piece of art is made by a female artist i.e. does female made art have observable similarities in themes or styles. Secondly, it helped them the analyze the impact of perceived gender of the artist (by the participants) on the prices bid for the paintings. Under the second experiment, each of the participants was asked to rate a list of 10 paintings, but the difference being that this time they could see the names of the artists (and hence recognise the gender of the artists before making a bid). This helped the authors analyze if there are any biases towards prices bid for paintings of female artists.

What are the results obtained by them?

From the first experiment, the authors inferred that the participants (people who were frequenting art galleries and auction houses) guessed majority of the paintings to be made by male artists. With regards to the bid prices for the paintings, it was inferred that the participants, who mainly comprised of affluent males frequenting art auction houses, did not appreciate female art as much as they did for paintings made by males (as was obvious from their low bids for female made art). For the second experiment, the authors found that the respondents perceived female made paintings to be of a lower quality, which was evident from the lower score given to female made art.

What do we recommend?

Firstly, it may be a useful technique to hide gender related characteristics, so as to avoid bias based on whether the person is male or female. Moreover, there is an issue of wrong valuation of the particular products because they are based on gender stereotypes. For example, investors might be biased against the stocks of a company because it has a woman CEO, art collectors might under-value a painting because it has been made by a female artist etc. Hence there should be mechanisms to mitigate this problem as well.


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