Having worked in art museums and galleries for the past decade or so, I am no longer surprised when the first question many visitors ask pertains to value. Not artistic value, mind you, but cold, hard, cash value. Instead of inquiring about how a work of art was made, how long it took to make, who made it and why, I estimate seven out of ten gallery-visiting folks will come out and say something along the lines of: "Which one of these is worth the most?"
|"The Pig That Therefore I Am" by Miru Kim|
It's a difficult question to answer. Like the economy, the art market is complicated and fickle. I read an excellent article that addresses the subject based in part on the author's impressions of the big art fair, Art Basel, Miami. Titled "Why is art so damned expensive?", Blake Gopnik has some amusing--and real world--commentary to share. His explanation as to why contemporary art prices are soaring (despite the horrible economy) include "the prestige factor", the fact that "dollars are easier to measure than beauty", the notion that some wealthy people are turned on by "the thrill of the hunt", and that increased competition between collectors (and artists) "skews the market".
Gopnik concludes with a nod at the price of appearances: "Top art collectors aren’t shoppers like anyone else. If they spend right, they can purchase the status of cultural patron. No one looks up to you for buying a fleet of Bentleys, but own a flock of Richard Serras, and you become a supporter of culture." Hmmm, I wonder if Santa would entertain the timely idea of adding Eli Broad to my list?