Wednesday, May 14, 2008

price versus value

The April issue of Artforum discusses the strange disparity between the prices of today's new art measured against works by masters of the past.
The example given is Peter Doig's White Canoe (courtesy Artnet, pictured above). It sold at Sotheby's in February 2007 for the price of 5.7 million pounds (approximately 11.1 million US)
This is contrasted with the work by an Old Master. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, the Venetian fresco painter was famed for his shimmering light and Rococo style. This is the Allegory of Planets and Continents at the Wurzburg Residenz painted in 1750-3.
And lastly, to compare price. The picture at the bottom left is titled Alexander the Great and Campaspe in the Studio of Apelles. This was sold to the Getty Museum for US$2,202,500 in 2000.
As you can see the price discrepancy between 11.1 million and 2.2 million may leave you scratching your head - and wondering how prices for art are set.
As you may also discern a price tag is in no way equivalent to the value of a work of art, in terms of its historical, social and psychological value. Recently a small portion of the world's population is getting extremely wealthy and they are interested in buying art of the moment.

But in the end, it is really time that becomes the ultimate arbiter of value. Of course, it's fun and sexy and a bit celebrity-ish to know these young (and not so young) living artists (mainly male artists) can sell art for such lavish prices. Yet, don't let the price tag fool you into thinking the art work is now priceless.

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