Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Money, Power, Beauty

In his book "The Value of Art", Michael Findley (Prestel, 2012) tackles the big question: What makes the value of a piece of art?
Using an allegory, the Three Graces, Thalia, Euphrosyne and Gayea represent  the commercial, social and aesthetic value of art. 

In the first chapter, Findlay defines basic terms like primary and secondary market, discusses factors influencing the price of a piece of art: size, media, supply, demand and the role of galleries, auction houses, artists and art fairs.
What makes a specific work of art valuable? provenance, condition, authenticity, exposure and quality.
Who are the makers and shakers? corporate art, banks, art investment funds. Are indexes, trend analysis useful? The appraisal of art varies from gallery to fair market value, auction estimate and even insurance value.
His conclusion: "buying art is an art, not a business."

In the next chapter, referring to Euphrosyne, the goddess of joy, the author describes the value of art as a social tool. The aesthetic side is last, with Aglaea and should be the most important according to the author.

A whole chapter is a historical reminder of the value of art and a projection into the years to come.

The numerous anecdotes collected during decades of dealing with artists, collectors, galleries illustrate the points made by the author who shares his experience in this entertaining book.
Beyond this, the afterword is enlightening: "The essential value of art ... is best absorbed privately and personally."  

"The Three Graces", Antonio Canova (19th Century) Hermitage Museum
"Abstract Painting 780-1" Gerhard Richter, 1992 (photograph by the author)
"Fontaine" Marcel Duchamp, 1917, Creative Commons

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