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Production to consumption: the artist-dealer relationship

Roberts, Jack Philip (2017) Production to consumption: the artist-dealer relationship. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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Despite the expansion of the contemporary art world and art market and the increased attention this has brought from theorists and researchers, there is still little known of the artist’s involvement in the operational dynamics of how art flows from production to consumption – beyond the artist’s role as the producer of the art object. This reinforces the image of the artist as ‘solitary genius’ and being isolated from the art world and art market. Is this romanticised notion from past eras still applicable in today’s globalised art world and art market? This thesis begins by assembling a contextual picture of the art world and art market – the complex logics are laid out within a framework considering how value is created, how the networks of agents operate as well as exploring what is currently known of the artist’s position within these networks (other than as producer). Following this the thesis brings in empirical evidence from in-depth interviews with artists and dealers to reveal that artists are both actively and reactively engaged in developing their art world and art market. It is specifically in relation to the structure of the artist-dealer relationship; the day-to-day administration of this relationship; and the management of third party relationships where their engagement takes place. Furthermore, I reveal there is a lack of clarity at the core of the art world and art market (specifically in the artist-dealer relationship), which is exacerbated by a reliance upon trust; this trust means that communications often do not occur and instead assumptions are made based on expectations. These expectations when unfulfilled can result in the artist taking an even greater level of administrative engagement. I therefore propose that the artist is both a creator and an administrator, whose administrative actions or inactions can develop or hinder their position within the art world and art market networks and ultimately impact on the value of them and their art.

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