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Prof. Roman Kräussl explores gender and pricing bias in the art market

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Published on Monday, 04 January 2021

Department of Finance professor within the Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance and Alternative Investments specialist, Roman Kräussl, has co-authored the paper “Gendered Prices” accepted for publication in the top journal The Review of Financial Studies in 2021. This review, published by Oxford University Press, is one of the 50 journals used by the Financial Times in compiling the FT Research rank.

With co-authors Renée Adams (University of Oxford, ABFER, ECGI, FIRN), Marco Navone (University of Technology Sydney, FIRN) and Patrick Verwijmeren (Erasmus School of Economics and University of Melbourne), Prof. Kräussl provides evidence that culture, specifically gender culture, is a source of pricing bias. Using a sample of 1.9 million auction transactions from 1970 to 2016 in 49 countries for 69,189 individual artists, the researchers document that auction prices for paintings by female artists are significantly lower than prices for paintings by male artists. They also found that the gender discount in auction prices is generally higher in countries with greater gender inequality.

Two experiments conducted by Prof. Kräussl’s team suggest that women’s art may sell for less at auction simply because it is made by women. In Experiment #1, the researchers asked participants how much they liked the painting on a scale of 0-10 after guessing the gender of the artist, allowing a measure of whether the perceived gender might affect a person’s appreciation of the work. In Experiment #2, researchers randomly associated fake male and female artists’ names with images of paintings and asked participants how much they liked the painting. 

Prof. Kräussl and his coauthors found that in both experiments, works that are associated with females (either through the guess of the participant or the fictitious name of the artist), command a lower rate of appreciation from affluent males who visit art galleries. As this is the typical profile of an auction bidder, they concluded that the experiment results are consistent with the hypothesis that the gender of the artist influences the price of the work at auction.

The findings were presented at numerous major academic conferences and generated substantial media attention, including from The Economist and The Financial Times, among others.