Positioning the impact of cultural capital as a product of the international art markets in Hong Kong

  • WATTS, Emma (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


With startling regularity the global mass media reports ever increasing prices paid for works of art through the international auction markets. The dominant auction houses, have been instrumental in the creation of Hong Kong as the Asian hub of the global art markets. This market, in particular, has contradicted the global economic crisis and financial uncertainty and has grown by over 120% in five years. 1 This unique market environment has been largely developed through the consumption of culture, primarily by the wealthy classes as connoisseur collectors, but also as buyers of the conspicuous consumption of art (Veblen, 1902) with a distinct overlap into the luxury goods market. Historically market emergence stems from either a state sponsorship of art or a collector patronage of art, and rely on established infrastructure; education, art schools, galleries, museums and cultural fascination. The Hong Kong model however sees the emergence of sales before solid infrastructure presenting an upside down scenario where money and art as consumer product appears before taste and connoisseurship. The environment is supported by the trans-global commercial transfer of contemporary art, serviced by a global stock of art, which imports culture for sale, and in some incidences buyers.

The global profile of the art market has further influence and aided the cultural vision of Hong Kong. The art ecological environment has seen numerous non-profit and public sector developments of art venues echoing the market position, for example the aim of M+ Museum to position Hong Kong within the global art world.

This study is inspired by the notion of cultural consumption and the theories of cultural capital (Bourdieu: 1984, 1993; Throsby: 1994, 1995, 1999, 2000) from economics of art, cultural studies, sociology and anthropology of art. It investigates the product of the art markets as the accumulation of capital culture, through knowledge, social status, and cultural interests, and the audiences’ experiences of art, in relation to high-end sales, conspicuous consumption, collecting, wider social interaction and the development of local production of art. These two theories will be used to conceptualize the ways in which the art markets are effecting consumption and the wider affect on the society of Hong Kong.

This research is the first major study of the ecology of art in Hong Kong and seeks to explore the impact on the accumulation of cultural capital specifically defined by the auction houses, through the global diaspora of art that both supplies the flow, but further responds to economic market conditions, following wealth as a global feed in the flow of consumption, transferring the standard application of ecosystems of nature in to the cultural ecosystem examining the supply, feed and flow of cultural consumption and cultural evolution.
Effective start/end date1/11/1430/04/17


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