What makes an art piece valuable?

18 replies
I've always wondered why modern art could commend high prices but classical music usually did not,

Usually, the reason given for why fine art should commend high price is that it is meant to evoke new ways of thinking in the user.

Yet there's a sonata called 4'33 by John Cage, which is Cage sitting at a piano and doing absolutly nothing for 4 minute and 33 second.How come there's no one that wants to pay 10 k to see John Cage sit down for 4 minute and 33 seconds?

In classical circles, Cage provokes mainly debate (if you want to be unpopular at your daughter's piano recital, tell the teacher how much you admire John Cage's 4'33 and how air conditioners can produce music equal to Bach's) but his followers are akin to true believers and I don't think he is reaping a lot of financial rewards from it.

It sounds like a silly proposition.But is this less silly then someone paying 2.7 million for an upside down urinal or 1.2 million CAD for 2 blue lines and 1 red line in the middle on an otherwise blank canvas? The justification isn't all that different.

You could say that classical is unpopular, but so is modern art. Modern art even less so perhaps. It seems both cannot survive without wealthy patrons yet modern art is thriving while classical music isn't (at least in the West).

Thoughts?Bad marketing or something else?Are there any good books on art marketing?
#art #makes #piece #valuable
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  • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
    Originally Posted by socialentry View Post

    Thoughts?Bad marketing or something else?Are there any good books on art marketing?
    It's not the art form, it's the medium. An original piece of art is a one-off and has an inherent rarity. That gives it investment potential. A piece of music can be reproduced in the millions or downloaded for free and still be experienced as the artist intended. You can't take away a John Cage concert and sell it to a collector - the only value is that which you place on the personal experience. It would also cost you several times more to get into a John Cage gig than to attend a modern art gallery.

    A violin owned by Mozart would probably be more valuable than most pieces of modern art. And don't forget that in their day, most well-known classical music composers, especially if they had sponsors, were much wealthier than the painters whose work we value so much now.
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  • Profile picture of the author JPs copy
    There's a Dan Kennedy video where he talks about the reason why people buy from someone doesn't boil down to value provided but perceived reputation. So if someone visits a doctor who is high in demand and is really compensated well, it's not necessarily because it's good at what they do, it's because they have a perception of being a good doctor.

    So if an artist is selling a piece, and they command a high price, it's most likely that they're in an environment where they can command a high price.
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  • Profile picture of the author savidge4
    I believe supply and demand would be the ultimate answer. The supply of a painting is "there can only be one" and demand of greater than 2 will created an inflated price.

    Music on the other hand is basically endless in supply ( in todays world ) so 1,000,000 downloads of a song are delivered to meet demand. Going back a few years.. when there was actually physical recorded music. Age and rarity obviously plays a part in the "Value" of any given LP CD DVD etc.

    But lets turn this a bit and look at the cash flow itself. With Art and using Piet Mondrian ( the guy that painted red, blue, and yellow squares and rectangles ) He has pieces that sell in the millions TODAY... but that would not be the case back in the 1930's.

    Music on the other hand - lets look at Justin Bieber. The first week alone he sold in excess of 500,000 copies of his "Purpose" album. forget singles sales at $1.29 each. The kid drops an album and instantly adds Millions to his bank account. And the way the music industry works is he will be collecting for the rest of his life in royalties for these songs.

    I would then argue from the perspective of a living "Artist" ( painter, photographer, drawer etc ) vs a living musician... the living musician makes FAR MORE money.

    Its the benefactors of "Artists" that down the line make money from art, and not really the artist themselves.

    An artist I personally have interest in is "Ten Hundred". You can buy an Original from him for next to nothing. What I really like about the guy is how he is building BRAND. Peter is a pretty smart guy when it comes to marketing and I think he is a step or 2 beyond a "Starving Artist" The closer he gets to critical mass with his merch etc the more value his originals will have.

    All that said Peter is NOT going to benefit as I will being an owner of an original piece. I may over time double, triple 100X my investment... and he MIGHT get 10X over time in terms of value for his NEW originals.
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  • Profile picture of the author myob
    Marketing ambience, coupled with leveraging the compelling intellectual awe and emotional intrigue of owning the rare, unique, or resonant. This has often been termed as neuromarketing.

    For example, Monet's original paintings have sold for upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars at high end auctions such as Sotheby's. At swap meets or Walmart where such a connection is missing, they would not fetch so much.

    "Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love."
    - Claude Monet

    P.S. Some affiliates are making a killing in the Arts niche of Amazon and Clickbank by whispering into these deep recesses of the mind.
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  • Profile picture of the author SARubin
    Originally Posted by socialentry View Post

    What makes an art piece valuable?
    I suppose like beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder.

    But if I had to put it into1 word, that word would be...

    PERCEPTION

    Mostly the perception of the perceived experts in the field.

    If I said a painting was worth $2,000,000 - most people would be skeptical at best (some people in the art world might even want to ostracize me for being a fool, or run me out of town with pitchforks and torches)

    But if the president of Sotheby's tells you the same painting is worth $2,000,000 - millionaires would be lining up with checkbooks in hand.



    A couple years ago the art world was rocked with scandal, when it was discovered that a prominent New York art gallery had been presenting forgeries as authentic masterpieces. Not entirely the fault of the art gallery since experts from around the world had authenticated the paintings as genuine masterpieces.

    So they were real, and worth millions... until one day it was discovered they were forgeries.

    The point is - one day a single painting was worth $10,000,000. The next day it was worth a few hundred dollars.

    It was the same painting, on the same canvas, with the same brush strokes.
    But the perception had dramatically changed.

    If you're interested, here's an old article that highlights a few of the more famous forgery scandals from recent history...

    https://news.artnet.com/art-world/re...candals-705428


    So I believe it's the same with modern art as well...

    If I told you a paint splat in the middle of a canvas is a masterpiece, you would probably raise a skeptical eyebrow (and then you might run me out of town with pitchforks and torches)

    But if the owner of a prominent art gallery says it's a surrealistic masterpiece, well, $10,000 isn't too much to pay for an original masterpiece. Is it?

    And if the artists suddenly dies, then scarcity makes that painting worth ten times more.
    .
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    There's a documentary out there somewhere on how art prices are manipulated by mostly art galleries and appraisers. There's nothing policing them or price guidelines. It's all perception. I like the art world, I can set any price I want.
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  • Profile picture of the author myob
    Art replication is where the really big money is being made. It's not just paintings, but duplication of "objets d'art" is a multi-billion dollar industry. The demand for copies of the "masters" (both classics and modern) is virtually insatiable.
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  • Profile picture of the author DABK
    You people are talking like none of you heard about the guy who duct-taped a banana to the wall of an art gallery that sold for $120K, then ate it. (He said it was delicious.)

    Then he duct-taped another banana to the same piece of wall.

    He sold one banana for $120k, then, apparently another one for $150k.

    Me thinks a fool and his money are easily parted comes into play too.

    Here, have a look at a $120,000 banana: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news...calls-n1097696.


    You drooling yet?
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    • Profile picture of the author misterme
      I read about it when it came out. There are similar such stories over the years. These stories always appear outrageous because there's nothing expensive about a banana. Or duct tape.

      But then, there's nothing expensive about the amount of oil paint on a canvas. Or the canvas. And yet, art can sell for thousands, millions.

      I've sold art pieces I've created, for the price of a car. Several times.

      Originally Posted by DABK View Post

      You people are talking like none of you heard about the guy who duct-taped a banana to the wall of an art gallery that sold for $120K, then ate it.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by DABK View Post

      You people are talking like none of you heard about the guy who duct-taped a banana to the wall of an art gallery that sold for $120K, then ate it. (He said it was delicious.)
      To be honest, I know nothing about modern art. But I think I may know why these types of "Art" sell for so much.

      Two reasons;
      1) Who created the piece. If people believe you are an artistic genius, it's much easier to sell anything you create, because it must be great...because you are a genius.

      2) Many people have an irresistible need to be seen as "Part of a select group". And also being "in the know". One way to demonstrate that you are highly attune to an artist's genius...is to buy a piece of art from them. Buying a banana taped to a wall means that you understand the artist. I see what they were trying to convey.


      Those are guesses.
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  • Profile picture of the author myob
    I have an appreciation for fine art of all kinds.

    But mostly just for the fine commissions when selling them.
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  • Profile picture of the author lorenburton
    Once art passes out of the hands of the first buyer, its commercial value is largely determined by the principle of supply and demand, but it can be managed by the artist's primary dealer.
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  • Profile picture of the author aduttonater
    I believe that originality is what makes art great.
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  • Profile picture of the author WF- Enzo
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    Originally Posted by socialentry View Post

    I've always wondered why modern art could commend high prices but classical music usually did not,
    It's also the same reason Jordan's shoes he wore on the famous "Flu Game" were sold at a hundred grand. To regular people, it's just a plain pair of basketball shoes worn on a championship game. This case is also a one-off. It happened to be worn by one of the greatest who also happened to had flu (big deal in basketball) in perhaps the biggest professional organisation in the world.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matthew Stanley
    Great thread and interesting ideas here. Many of them got me thinking about the NFT craze going on right now over in crypto-land (basically scarce digital content in token form). Crypto art - one subset of this - has reportedly generated over $100M in sales. I thought the investor Ari Paul had a good thread on the need states that may underpin this today - sharing below. His thoughts on signaling connect in some ways to JP's post about Dan Kennedy's thoughts about perceived reputation.

    • "Most of the skepticism around NFTs surrounds the idea that the object (an image or music file, etc) is costless to reproduce. Viewed through a lens of cost of production or quality, very little in human consumption makes sense. What are brands?
    • First some examples: "authentic" natural diamonds, picassos, and rolexes, are today indistinguishable from forgeries except upon close inspection by trained experts. The top auction houses for example routinely have trouble authenticating $20m+ works of art; rely on provenance
    • In other words, that $20m+ work of art is so close to a forgery in "quality" that even top experts will say they often can't distinguish and need to look at the old-world equivalent of a blockchain to verify authenticity. So....why will people pay $20m? Why buy a real rolex?
    • Put more simply - why do people pay for expensive things beyond the innate qualities of an object? Why own a picasso or real rolex or natural diamonds or a genuine Gucci bag or Supreme shirt?
    • Human consumption can at its most basic be described as falling into two categories. commodity and signalling. For commodity purchases, all we care about is the object itself. We want to buy a car that's fast/safe/efficient etc. We want watches and art that look nice.
    • But often we're willing to pay a premium, some times a 1000x+ premium over the cost of production. Why? To signal to ourselves and to others that we're a certain type of person usually.
    • Am I the type of person that wears a fake rolex or a real rolex (or a casio)? Similarly, am I the type of person with a tesla or lambo or toyota in my garage?
    • while there are other types of branding/marketing, 90% of it is about convincing us that a certain type of person owns a certain type of object, and that we can become that type of person by owning the same object. Commercialized mimetics.
    • And this is a Keynesian game - the buyer doesn't need to believe it - they need to think that *other* people believe it. I may not buy into the marketing, but if I think that women look at rolex-wearing as a signal of class and success, maybe I'd wear one to impress, etc.
    • this isn't to say that the object is irrelevant. While people may buy a BMW or Mercedes partly to signal and impress others, part of that brand and signalling is that these cars are high quality. Similarly, the highest end watches incorporate tons of laborious handwork,even though often this intricate work is entirely hidden behind a metal backplate. Why's it there? IMO - primarily because it allows collectors to justify the high price tag to themselves and others. They didn't buy it purely to signal they could afford it...craftsmanship!
    • Once you realize that the qualities of the object play a supporting role to the narrative and signalling of branded items, everything makes sense. The hand engraving of a Patek Philippe may be intrinsically valued by some tiny % of its owners, but for most, it's an "excuse."
    • TLDR - there's nothing new or unusual or, frankly, even all that interesting, about the fact that people will pay $1m for an NFT with zero cost of replication. It's just a minor extension of what we already see with traditional art, collectibles, and high end branded goods.
    • let me add one last point - this thread focused on the external signalling, but there are of course genuine art lovers who want to support artists, and art creation generally, and want to own authentic works of art. For them, cryptographic authenticity is great value".
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  • Profile picture of the author Skip Rozier
    Subjectivity & Ego
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    An old friend who owns an art gallery in the south and is that rare breed of artist who has been fully self supporting for years....was explaining the 'meaning' of a piece to me years ago. She was expounding on the emotional level of the painting, the social commentary, etc....when my son (about 10-11 at the time) said "I didn't know all that - I thought it was a barn".


    It was...a barn.
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    • Profile picture of the author animal44
      Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

      An old friend who owns an art gallery in the south and is that rare breed of artist who has been fully self supporting for years....was explaining the 'meaning' of a piece to me years ago. She was expounding on the emotional level of the painting, the social commentary, etc....when my son (about 10-11 at the time) said "I didn't know all that - I thought it was a barn".


      It was...a barn.
      Philistine...!
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