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Art – How it is valued



The reason that many people continue to be astonished or enraged when they hear that a work of art has been sold for a large sum of money is that they believe art serves no necessary function.   

We have all wondered what makes art valuable and what differentiates between them being of value or not. 

What makes a Pollock, Rembrandt or Van Gogh be worth so much? We delve into how artworks are valued. 


What Determines the Commercial Value of Art? 

According to Artnet.comlike currency, the commercial value of art is based on collective intentionality. There is no intrinsic, objective value (no more than that of a hundred-dollar bill). Human stipulation and declaration create and sustain the commercial value. 

The reason that many people continue to be astonished or enraged when they hear that a work of art has been sold for a large sum of money is that they believe art serves no necessary function.  

It is neither utilitarian nor does it seem to be linked to any essential activity. You cannot live in it, drive it, eat, drink, or wear it. 


What Makes a Specific Work of Art Valuable? 

Artnet.com specifies that to arrive at the market value of a work of art, the following 9 attributes must be known and weighed carefully: 

  • Authenticity – The first element that sets a cheap painting apart from an expensive one is, of course, its authenticity. A real Monet is always going to be worth more than a copy. 
  • Provenance – An artwork’s provenance, or a history of who it has belonged to, is another determining factor in its value. For example, if a painting was once owned by a prominent collector or came from a respected gallery, it will automatically be worth more. 
  • Condition – This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but a painting’s condition is also an important factor. If, for example, an artwork has sun damage or a tear, that will adversely affect its price. 
  • Historical significance – Ask yourself, is the work in question a major player in the canon of art history? If so, that’s added 0’s to the price right away. 
  • Typicality – If the artwork in question exhibits recognizable features of a famous artist, it will be worth more. For example, a cubist painting by Picasso will typically cost more than one of his early landscapes, because people associate Picasso with cubism. 
  • The backstory of the artist – If an artist has an interesting back story, such as an early death for example, the price will be affected. This is partially because if he or she produced less work, by virtue of dying young, then supply and demand come into play right away, but also because artist’s lives tend to fascinate the public, so any captivating story will help sell their work. 
  • Medium – Generally speaking, works on canvas will always sell for more than those on paper. Likewise, paintings will sell for more than a sketch or, of course, a print. 
  • Colour – Colour also comes into play when determining a painting’s value. Historically, paintings that contain red, for example, always cost more. 
  • ‘Wall power’ – Although difficult to quantify in words, an artwork’s ‘wall power’ is the perhaps the biggest determining factor in its value. Does it shock? Does it inspire awe? Does it just draw you in and you don’t know why? All of this will help the price soar. 

Even though all these elements come into play to make a painting valuable, one thing that is not quantifiable is how the artwork makes you feel. 

So, go ahead and buy that painting that gives you sensations. 

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