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Making Old Objects Valuable Again. The Cultural, Economic Challenges and Sustainability Opportunities of Antiques in the 21st Century

Project description

The role antiques play in informal cultural heritage

Antiques possess value as informal cultural heritage, yet cultural institutions and scholarly research often overlook them. The ERC-funded MOOVA project aims to highlight the potential of old objects, and ordinary antiques in particular, by delving into their cultural, perceived, and economic value. Employing theories, data, and methods from art history, economics, cognitive science, and marketing, MOOVA will explore the role of antique dealers in preserving this informal cultural heritage, the digital transformation of the antiques business, and the potential of antiques for sustainable consumption and local city branding. This interdisciplinary approach to the economics of antiques will lead to the development of models that aim to renew the relevance, meaning and utility of these objects in our present society.


What do old porcelain, wooden furniture, and silverware have in common? All of these antiques fall into the category of informal heritage. Regardless of their cultural significance, many of these objects remain on the margins, both in cultural institutions and scholarly research. As a result, the question of how antiques are safeguarded, valued, traded, perceived, and consumed remains largely underexplored. By studying the contemporary economy of antiques, MOOVA’s prime objective is to highlight the potential of these objects regarding the safeguarding and promotion of informal heritage, sustainable consumption, new business models for ageing sectors, and local city development. More specifically, MOOVA aims to: 1) demonstrate the patrimonial role of antique dealers as vital safe-guarders of informal heritage; 2-3) explore the market structures at play within the antiques trade, its economic impact, and the supply and demand for antiques in a digital economic context; 4) understand how antiques are perceived by younger generations (Gen Z); and 5) develop a theoretical and practical model for renewing the meaning and value of these complex objects. Through selected case studies (European decorative arts) and a multi-transversal approach (cross-markets, objects, countries), the project will combine theories, data, and methods from art history, cultural economics, cognitive science, and arts marketing to investigate this topic holistically. The first stage will consist in data collection and processing, using new databases of evidence drawn from primary and secondary sources (incl. interviews and sales results), while the second will be dedicated to the development of the reevaluation model. MOOVA's overreaching goal is to progress towards more advanced scholarship in art market studies by providing tools that better fit the idiosyncrasies of markets for complex cultural goods, and to address issues related to art education, audience renewal, and job opportunities.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 493 339,00
1050 Bruxelles / Brussel

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Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/ Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest Arr. de Bruxelles-Capitale/Arr. Brussel-Hoofdstad
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 493 339,00

Beneficiaries (1)