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Yes
58%
 58%  [ 46 ]
No
41%
 41%  [ 32 ]
Total Votes : 78

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Robert Cumming
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PostPosted: Wed May 26, 2004 6:55 pm    Post subject: Is any painting worth $104 million? Reply with quote

Following the sale by Sotheby’s of Picasso’s Boy with the Pipe on May 12th 2004 for $104 million (£58 million) I have had several emails and conversations, plus given a couple of radio interviews, all with the same theme: how can anyone justify such an enormous sum of money for a work of art?

There seem to be a number of issues.

1. Some people are clearly unhappy about such a headline breaking price because it turns this work of art, and works of art in general, into freak shows. People are encouraged to look at them not because of their intrinsic aesthetic or other artistic merits but because of the price tag that is attached to it.

2. Other people seem to be quite relaxed. Their argument is – well there are many very rich people in the world, whose wealth is measured in millions. What is a $100 million to them? If that is how they want to spend their money so be it.

3. Others put forward the argument that when $100 million could do so much good in a world still stricken by poverty and disease it is unconscionable to spend such a staggering sum of money on something which is completely useless and provides only self indulgent pleasure.

And there are other arguments and variations on the above themes.

I thought it might be interesting to provide comparisons between a few landmark prices over the last 80 odd years. All of the five works listed made popular headlines and raised similar arguments about the ludicrous sums of money being paid for works of art and the suggestion that the art market could go no higher. The first figure gives the actual price at the date that the picture was sold, the second figure gives the same price adjusted for inflation and today’s equivalent. The conclusion is that the prices of headline grabbing works of art are now more frequent than ever, and prices are ten to twenty times higher than the boom years of the 1920s.

1921 Gainsborough Blue Boy £148,000 (equivalent to £4.5 million today)

1970 Velasquez Juan de Pareja £2.3million (equivalent to £21million today)

1987 Van Gogh Sunflowers £22.5 million (equivalent to £39 million today)

1990 Van Gogh Dr Gachet £44 million (equivalent to £61million today)

As a piece of silly nonsense here are some figures that give the price of works of art sold recently that have also grabbed a headline translated into their price per square inch.

Rubens’s Massacre of the Innocents sold in 2002 for £49.5 million = £11,000 per square inch

Van Gogh’s Dr Gachet sold in 1990 for £44 million = £66,000 per square inch

Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks sold in 2004 for £35 million = £341,130 per square inch

Picasso’s Boy with a Pipe sold in 2004 for £58 million = £45,312 per square inch

Do I have a personal point of view? I accept that rich men and women from the Medici onwards have spent vast sums of money on works of art. I have no real problem when such sums are spent on things, which seem to me to be of extraordinary quality and merit (I would put the Picasso in this category). I do despair when large sums of money are spent on things, which seem to me to be irredeemably flimsy and meretricious. I do also have a problem with greed. I am happy for people to be well and generously rewarded for their efforts and skills but I do sometimes think that the current rewards given to captains of industry, footballers, and others, are generous beyond reason. I am also uneasy with the idea that the only identifiable value for anything, be it goods or services, is what you can sell it for, and that the only security and measure of success in the modern world is how much money you have in the bank. I am conscious that such personal points of view reveal my age, upbringing and education.

However, I have tried to condense all these thoughts into one simple question because, following the emails and other conversations, I am intrigued to know the general mood.


Last edited by Robert Cumming on Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:15 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Paula Lang
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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2004 5:30 pm    Post subject: 104 million Reply with quote

I think that there's a difference between the price that is paid for a work of art in an open market, which is determined by supply and demand, and the value of that work of art in a broader sense. Stories in the media that criticise the sale of a 'pile of bricks' for X thousand confuse these two ideas of value. Simply because it attracts a very high price, a work of art seems to become open to all types of criticism - as if to say, it's not worth that, so it is somehow inferior to that price. In truth there is no way of making an objective link between how good a work of art is and the money that it can be exchanged for, outside of a market situation.

The question, therefore, 'was it worth that much?' could be answered - yes, exactly that amount, because that is what someone paid for it.

If you were selling it, you would probably want to get the best price, especially if you where then going to give that money to a hospital.

The real value of a work of art outside of a market situation is something else. I may wonder past 100s of millions of pounds of oil covered canvas in the National Gallery one afternoon, thinking about my dinner date that evening. Or I may stop and look at one work for some time, and thinking about it will make a great difference to me. And I wouldn't care how much it cost.
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Giles O'Bryen
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2004 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem is that publicly funded museums and galleries are being priced out of the art market because it is assumed - probably correctly - that people don't want to see 100 million spent on a painting. They would rather have a new school or a hospital, for instance. Nor can public institutions justify such acqusitions as investments, as wealthy individuals and organisations do, because they wouldn't be allowed to sell them.

The upshot is that it is hard for representatives of the public purse to play in the market on an equal footing. We rely instead on curators spotting great art before it gets expensive, and on the philanthropy of private individuals and institutions. In the USA they seem quite comfortable with the latter, although in the UK, with our much broader concept of the common good, we tend to be rather grumpy and ungrateful about it.
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Simon Thompson
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2004 6:26 pm    Post subject: Is a painting worth a hundred million dollars Reply with quote

NO, a hospital or a school - or a number of hospitals and schools are worth a hundred million dollars, or NHS dental treatment available to all, but a single painting, NO.

Great art, rare art, breathtaking art is of course worth a great deal not only in monetary terms, but in cultural, educational and emotional terms. Millions of dollars for the best -maybe, but 100 million NO!
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Wynn Wheldon
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 12:32 am    Post subject: 100 million Reply with quote

of course a painting can be worth 100 million dollars. why should it not? so long as we remember that cost and value are by no means the same thing, we should retain our sanity. chelsea football team, for example, has been very expensively procured; as yet it has won nothing. purchasing a picasso seems eminently more sensible. as for the school or hospital argument, that seems to me fatuous - we all have hates (think how many hospitals might have been built for the money spent on Eastenders over the years; consider the fossil fuels we could save by banning books). most of the great art collections in this country were gathered not by the state but by private individuals, thank god. the state doesn't have any business buying very expensive works of art. the inexorable rise of the state has actually endangered the philanthropic impulse. american traditions of civic responsibility, in which the state hardly figures, are quite different to those of europe, where the state has replaced the aristocracy as the arbiter of our lives. it is no accident that new york, the capital of capitalism, is also the capital of art.
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adam kean
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 13, 2004 10:32 am    Post subject: is painting worth 100 million? Reply with quote

Isn't there something rather joyous about people who are willing to pay so much for art? If we suspend our cynicism for a second, and allow that some artists do indeed capture the beauty and mystery of the world, then what is that worth? On the one hand, it is worth all the gold and jewels in the world (haven't the fairy tales of our youth taught us that?) On the other hand it is worth nothing. In the sense that such things are not about worth, but just are. The complication comes (forgive the borderline fatuousness) from living in a system of worth, of capitalism, if you like, where people's labours are measured by money. Art comes into this category, as it is a labour which is traditionally charged for. That people are willing to pay so much for a piece of canvas in a wooden frame, means they must attach a deal of importance to the beauty and mystery involved - even if, at the same time, we regard such attaching as misguided. Any uncomrtableness we feel - and there is some - is uncomfortableness with the capitalist system. But we tend to get over that fairly readily, don't we? Vera Brittain said it best, when she called it 'imperfect decency'.
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Wynn Wheldon
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2004 11:10 am    Post subject: is painting worth a 100 million dollars Reply with quote

my learned friend mr kean brings a refreshing, though far from naive, note of the joyous to the forum. however, i would like to suggest that art cannot thrive without excessive wealth, and that the best way of creating such excessive wealth is the capitalist way. certainly plenty of great art was created in the pre-capitalist world, but that art tended to the glorificatiion of the church, the state or the noble (in much the same way as communist art worked). like it or not, it is the bourgeoisie that allowed artists to be artists rather than indentured employees. art is a luxury, and luxury costs.
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Morris Penstemon
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2005 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There doesn't seem to be much recognition of the transaction as a transitive process. Just the paying-out, not the paying-to.
So that a painting being bought for $104 million is simply another consumer item on the shelf, and what you're debating is its accessibility as a commodity.
I'd suggest that paying millions of dollars to the artist who actually painted the work might have some long-term importance.
As opposed to paying that large a sum to someone who was merely clever and crafty enough to get hold of it.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The real value of a work of art outside of a market situation is something else. I may wonder past 100s of millions of pounds of oil covered canvas in the National Gallery one afternoon, thinking about my dinner date that evening. Or I may stop and look at one work for some time, and thinking about it will make a great difference to me. And I wouldn't care how much it cost.
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John Daughtry
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

btw $ per inch payment model is standard in today's art world, many popular artists like Nikas Safronov sell their woks this way and live good, regarding the subject of the topic, I think no, the value if these works is overestimated.
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Steve Jones
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 7:20 pm    Post subject: Art Reply with quote

I don't think that art has turned into a freak show whatsoever. The painting was clearly worth that much because i believe that history means something. It certainly does to someone like me who studied it at college and school.

History is a big part of human culture and we can't just forget about it in a blink of an eye. It is there to teach our children and there kids somewhere down the line as well.


Last edited by Steve Jones on Wed Oct 16, 2013 2:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 12:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is always a place for history, and this picture was clearly worth something.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A great piece of history right here.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2014 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I must say, thats a hell of alot for a painting!!

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2016 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think any painting is worth that much

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