Nell Roberts

Art History

in various professional contexts in galleries and museums, Nell founded the fundraising and event planning consulting company Stellar Events. Her clients include various museums and nonprofit organizations such as the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. She also managed her own event venue in Downtown Denver. During the height of COVID restrictions, Nell transitioned away from event planning to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in Art History from the University of Colorado Denver. She is also working as a research and curatorial assistant for private art collections with Fanning Art Advisory as well as an art history research assistant for Dr. Elizabeth Pugliano. 

“Runaway Art Market: Joana Vasconcelos’s Navigation through Public and Private Art Dealings”

In recent decades, the influence of public art institutions such as museums and foundations has waned along with their diminished funding. Meanwhile, dealers, auction houses, and private collectors have been brokering record sales in the $50-billion (annual) global industry. These new powerbrokers are now surpassing museum curators in determining and influencing art’s commercial value. This new paradigm invites questions about what makes “good” art; how art’s value is determined; and the relationship between the public art sector and private art market. By examining the successful career of Portuguese contemporary artist Joana Vasconcelos (b. 1971), which has benefited from both public and private acquisitions, this case study analyzes the shift of power from public museums to the private sector, and the consequences of such a shift when private collectors, particularly the ultra-wealthy, impact public access to art. This study finds that the swelling influence of private collectors has inflated art prices in ways that not only limit public museums’ ability to acquire and exhibit new art, but also exerts disproportionate influence on the public’s perception of what is “noteworthy” art. Through this case study of a single artist’s career, this examination offers insight on a critical turning point for the contemporary art market and a possible roadmap for maintaining diversity and equilibrium necessary for a sustainable art market.