Niharika Goel

Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Moore School of Business

First Advisor

David Crockett


As marketing theory has evolved, value co-creation has taken center stage in exchange processes. The goal of this dissertation, situated at the intersection of market systems and the visual art market, is to generate a deeper understand of the fundamentals of value co-creation at the level of practice, in part because the visual art world is organized as a Bourdieusian field of cultural production with its own set of rules, narratives, individuals and institutions. While individuals can effectively position themselves in this field to accumulate social capital, they are inextricably linked to others. Hence, it is imperative to understand the relationship between them. In fact, sociologist Howard Becker’s famous definition of the “art world” is premised on it being a network of people whose cooperative activity and joint knowledge produces art. That is, art is more than just paint on canvass. (I use the terms “art market” and “art field” in this dissertation similarly to Becker’s notion of the art world.) The art market might look disorganized and disconnected from the real world to the uninitiated. However, extensive research by renowned scholars indicates that just like any other social field, artwork is produced and distributed via a network of interacting actors that share joint conventional knowledge. The interaction between actors follows processes (also called mechanisms) and defined logics, leading to the co-creation of value. In this study, I focus on value co-creation mechanisms between the two most important actors in terms of their social legitimacy: artists and gallerists. I further analyze the mechanisms at the level of practice—routinized ways of understanding the world—to parse the motives that exist in the art market. When examined from an institutional approach (as in the past), these motives appear to be bifurcated into creating arts for art’s sake versus creating art for commercial success. When examined from a practice-level approach (as in this study), there appear to be a wider array of motives that provide structure to artist-gallery relationships. In Part I of the study, I look at these motives and the relationship types in developing markets, where gallerists and artists can generally command similar prices. The relationship types are as follows: (1) “Artist’s Agent” relationships are indicative of high-status and act as taste makers in the art market; (2) “Real Estate Agent” relationships follow the practices typical of profit maximizers; and (3) “Low-end Specialty” relationships deal with low-status actors at low price points. Interestingly, it is not just the mix of value creation mechanisms that is different across relationship types. Each relationship type implements the constituent practices differently, even when the basic value creation mechanisms (e.g., credentialing, reputation-building) are the same. In Part II of the study, I look at which of the relationship types are robust to the exogenous shock of COVID-19. I find that Artist’s Agents emerge as the most successful relationship type. Also, artists in the Low-end Specialty relationship type experience a surge in demand for commissions directly from customers. Most galleries in the Real Estate Agent and Low-end Specialty relationship types shut doors.