Value of a Painting
The true value of a work of art is directly proportional to the needs, wants, and desires of the individual willing to pay for it. If a work of art sells for hundreds of millions of dollars at auction, it’s a shallow comment on its aesthetic, originality, or its authenticity as a great painting.
Any object can be traded for large sums of money; it’s invariably about its perceived value based on a compelling story. The story always ends up with the comment “its value will go up over time.” The only paintings that increase in value over time, is when the artist who creates them is long deceased. The inventory of an artist that is no longer around comes to a screeching halt. You know; supply and demand. Some very clever people concoct an aura around the paintings of a particular artist; to perpetuate and create the myth that if you’re wealthy enough you can be one of the privileged few that can collect these infamously overpriced works of art.
High-stakes art collecting is a game perpetuated by dealers and auction houses. The actual appreciation for the collected art is there, but it’s invariably about who’s got the biggest, ego driven, collection; made up of the most famous works of art. In reality; fortunately for most of us, the largest percentage of collectible paintings grace the walls of art museums. Where everyone can see and admire them in person. In many cases you can even photograph the great paintings of the world, with your cell phone to prove to everyone on social media that you were there in the presence of great art.
To me; the most valuable works of art are created by a child, both boys and girls. And where does one find these incredible pieces of creativity? They’re most often first seen attached to a refrigerator door, proudly and ceremoniously installed by a loving mother and father. These works of art retain their value from the day they were created all the way up to that child becoming an adult. Certain pieces stay in families in some cases for generations. Who doesn’t love to say “I’ve been saving this precious fingerpainting from my great-grandmother, she made this when she was only four.” Boastfully adding, “Don’t you think this was so beautifully done? And just think she made it when she was only four; it’s just beautiful.” And of course you always hear them say, “I had it framed, we have had this on the wall in just about every home we lived in.”
I believe works of art should be valued based on their creators passion, not by those collectors who buy on spec to drive up the value for future profit. I know it takes a certain amount of creativity to earn scads of money, so you can buy stuff that will increase in value, creating more assets; or better known as wealth. But when it comes to collecting art, it doesn’t seem to be all that creative, your generally buying with your ears and not your eyes.
Trophies bought, not created— I sometimes think the mantle over a fireplace proudly showing a large group of won bowling trophies, has more virtue; at least they were earned because of a skill and not because of a checkbook.
I once had the opportunity to photograph some very famous paintings in the home of a wealthy art collector. The paintings were distributed throughout this mammoth home. I honestly have to say they fit into the decor of that home beautifully. Each work of art created a design element. Every painting worked incredibly well with the interior design and architecture. I asked the owner why he collected these paintings. His answer was a bit surprising. I of course thought it was purely as an investment; because it was. They would gain in value as time went on. The surprising answer he shared with me: “my interior designer selected these works of art to make our home more beautiful.” He went on to say that his home became more livable for himself and his family. What about the investment aspect, I asked? He went on to say; “I can probably buy just about anything I want, more homes, another airplane, cars, all stuff… which is just more material possessions.” “My art collection has provided me with a certain amount of peace inside.” He conceded and became more introspective. “Maybe it’s because many of the artists that created these wonderful paintings didn’t have all the blessings I have been given.”
The one thing that became clear to me as he shared his innermost feelings and thoughts regarding his art collection, was an insightful truth. These famous paintings: knowingly or unknowingly, transmitted emotions that he was able to tune into. Someday his grandchildren may sell them off for hard cold cash, they certainly will of gain in value. My guess is that this wealthy collector will hang onto, and live a life surrounded by some of the most famous works of art; if for no other reason then to provide himself with the pleasure of an inner spiritual lift.
Yes: art is collectible, and yes for the most part it’s decorative. It can be inspirational, and often it reminds us of a person, place, or thing. Did you pick up a painting from a tiny gallery in Nantucket, Massachusetts? Did you hang it somewhere in your home? When every time you looked at it, maybe it reminded you of all the good times you had exploring that seaside town, and maybe even the lobster dinner and wine you shared with a loved one. I often think that art is a reminder of special moments, having a profound presence that a photograph can never achieve.
If you happen to be the proud owner of an original painting of a bowl of fruit, or a carefully composed painting of vegetables; a smallish one, perhaps 5 x 7 in size; and then you found just the right spot in your kitchen to hang it. It made you feel like an interior decorator, and that little painting did wonders for the overall warmth of the room that generally is the most central part of any home. Will that little painting ever be worth more than you paid for it? Most likely not, but it will always mean something special to you. Maybe one of your grandchildren will decide they want it to be placed in their own kitchen as a reminder of you.
If I were to sell you one of my works of art. I could give you many compelling reasons why you might want one. But there is one thing I will never do, and that is tell you or anyone it will gain in value— in fact if anything, it may lose value as styles and tastes change. It’s always possible that it could become a hand-me-down. I know my sister has one of my pieces of art proudly displayed in her dining room. Her children and even some of her grandchildren want to know if they can have it once she passes on. Almost sounds a little bit unkind, but it’s amazing how as our children grow older they start the “I dibs it game.”
What is the value of the painting? You can be sure there are paintings out there that have sold for millions of dollars. If one collector can afford to buy a single painting in the amount of $469.7 million. And another collector could only afford a painting valued at $101.7 million. What’s the game— there each hoping, maybe even praying, that the artwork they acquired will gain in value. Will these collectors sit before these formidable acquisitions, meditate on the trials, tribulations, angst, and internal pressures the artist felt? These artists, who put brush to canvas and could never foresee a future where people would hype up its intrinsic value, just for speculative profit. You can imagine; these artists could’ve never imagined such a thing.
The true value of a painting most likely starts when a child hands the work of art they created in kindergarten, to a loving mother or father. Pride rules the day; not monetary value. The parents, grandparents, relatives and all those that have the opportunity to see the refrigerator gallery, look on with gleefulness. Perhaps the child is the one who deserves to bask in pride; why? Because they really understand the value of the art they created and the feelings they had when they could share it with the ones that they love.