Does travel inspire? Evidence from the superstars of modern art

Abstract

This paper investigates whether travel increases the value of paintings produced by modern visual artists. The analysis is based on the 214 most prominent modern visual artists born between 1850 and 1945 and auction records of their paintings over the past 20 years. We find that artworks produced in the year of a journey are 7% more valuable than paintings produced in periods with no travel. We attribute this effect to human capital investments, knowledge spillovers and inspiration from the travel destination itself. There are persistent, but declining benefits to travel over the subsequent 4 years. The analysis shows that the impact of travel is smaller for later periods as modern art becomes more abstract. The effect on the value of paintings differs depending on the purpose of a journey: work-related, recreational and politically motivated journeys have a positive contemporaneous effect on value, whereas educational journeys have a negative effect. In addition, we find that France, Germany and the United States are the most frequently visited destinations for modern artists and also yield considerable benefits during times of strong innovation.

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Correspondence to Christiane Hellmanzik.

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Hellmanzik, C. Does travel inspire? Evidence from the superstars of modern art. Empir Econ 45, 281–303 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00181-012-0617-x

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Keywords

  • Modern artists
  • Mobility
  • Travel
  • Economic geography
  • Human capital
  • Knowledge spillovers
  • Creativity
  • Peer effects

JEL Classification

  • J61
  • R39
  • N90
  • Z11