The nugget. (Sisters, Or.) 1994-current, November 21, 2018, Page 4, Image 4

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018 The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon
Determining the true value of art
By Chris Morin
A man from out of state
came into our gallery a few
summers ago, and we engaged
in conversation for nearly an
hour. This included discus-
sions about particular pieces
and artists, along with works
that he owned.
At the end, the man
announced that the gallery
wasn’t pricing paintings
correctly because he had a
“famous painter friend” who
taught him how to value a
work — “The subject matter
has to accurately represent
what it depicts. Basically,
Picasso, Van Gogh, and Dali
are rip-offs. That’s not art.
For real painters, it’s how
many brush strokes go into
every square inch. The more
brush strokes, the more valu-
able the work. So really, it’s a
Over the last 250 years,
how to value art has pretty
much stayed the same com-
pared to how the meaning
of art has evolved. This first
example notwithstanding,
art valuation is classically
defined by two essential con-
siderations — it’s extrinsic
and intrinsic attributes.
Before defining those attri-
butes, some things need to be
taken off the table — mass-
produced items are not being
viewed as “craft,” let alone
art. So toss out those $500,000
Princess Diana Teddy Bear
Beanie Babies on eBay. Nor is
cyber “graphic” art being con-
sidered because technology
utilizes programs to do a sig-
nificant portion of the creative
process, whereas a traditional
artist is more fully responsible
for all of the creative aspects
of a work. Fine art, along with
individually handcrafted items
not having a dual utilitarian
purpose, is being addressed.
Extrinsic factors include
an art critic or expert
“discovering” an artist who
has come into his or her own.
Word-of-mouth or social
media is another way a work
becomes popular and in
demand, thus raising value.
Finally, success by associa-
tion matters a lot. An example
would be a good painting in
a nice art shop in the middle
of nowhere has only so much
value. If that particular work
is then placed in an art gal-
lery, two doors down from the
Guggenheim, an altogether
different worth applies.
Intrinsic factors include
the quality and care taken
in a work’s construction; its
overall beauty, with “beauty”
typically defined as compe-
tence in overall design, i.e. the
visual and spatial attributes
— shape, line, texture, color,
volume, and/or space; its abil-
ity to engage us intellectu-
ally, emotionally, or, some
would argue, energetically;
the efforts required from the
artist to make it; whether or
not a work can allude to other
possibilities, which evoke
delayed realizations; the value
of the raw materials used in
the construction; the expected
lifespan of the piece; either
the depth of cultural tradition
behind it or the originality of
Some new factors do
impact the value of art today:
the proliferation of artists due
to societies becoming more
affluent, the art forgery indus-
try’s growth, access to the
entire art market via the cyber
world, and new works having
to compete with older works
for the same audience.
People in our gallery
sometimes question whether
or not to acquire a work based
on its potential price in 30
years, when they or their chil-
dren go to resell it. For them,
the buying of art is viewed as
a financial investment, with a
profitable return expected.
Along with this and more
common are the people who
want us to look at their older,
typically inherited, Native
American artwork or jew-
elry. They wonder if we can
tell them “what it might be
worth?” They’re asking for a
free appraisal. That type of
valuing — secondary market
artwork — has altogether dif-
ferent considerations.
Artists sell art in order to
generate capital. Essentially,
however, all artists hold some
measure of connection with
each and every work they
make as it came into being in
their hands. There is a bond
in that, and this gives a work
an additional intrinsic quality,
while burnishing the afore-
mentioned intrinsic ones.
The person who then
acquires and accepts the art-
work of an artist receives the
finality of that creator’s bond
to the piece. If the same indi-
vidual purchasing the work
eventually attempts to resell
it, the original connection that
the work had with the artist
cannot be included.
Public art, including works
in museums, has a completely
different value because those
works are shared property.
Using real estate as a simile,
it would be the difference
in the “value” of land in
Yellowstone National Park
and the worth of a ranch next
to Yellowstone. At a smaller
scale, some towns display
public art, such as statues on
their sidewalks. Be they depic-
tions of individuals engaged
in an endeavor or brightly and
bizarrely painted pigs, visitors
gain insights into the commu-
nity while, over time, many
locals come to see the increas-
ingly familiar works as a sort
of badge for the community.
Finally, antique works
by masters have their own
realm. Christie’s of New York
recently sold Leonardo Da
Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi “for
$450 million. This stands
as the single most valuable
acquisition of any relatively
small material object in the
history of humankind.
Television commercials for
a certain credit card company
used to end with a heartfelt
situation being called “price-
less” and “for all other things,
there’s [us].” Individuals who
want to have a full-on career
as an artist learn not to fall in
love with their works and sub-
sequently overprice them. Gift
shops, art galleries, art centers,
and even museum stores that
want to be profitable under-
stand the need to price works
appropriately, no matter what
they think or feel about them.
It’s only at a few select auc-
tion houses or within eBay’s
Beanie Baby section where a
work might attain that rarified
realm of priceless.
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