Of What Value is Art?

I just watched a show on art forgery and it got me thinking.

There’s this painting.  At first, it’s just a nice little painting in the Renaissance style.  Some guy paid a couple thousand dollars for it and hung it in his restaurant.

Then someone said it was most definitely from the Renaissance, and the painting suddenly got a lot more valuable.  Tens of thousands of dollars.

Then someone said it was a Da Vinci, and suddenly it was worth millions.  No, hundreds of millions.  Hell no, it’s priceless.

Then it goes before a panel of experts.  Some say it’s genuine.  It’s sublime.  It’s for realz.

But some say it doesn’t reflect Da Vinci’s genius. They pull out a magnifying glass and point to obscure details, like these brush strokes are 10 degrees too close to the vertical.  It’s definitely not a Da Vinci.

But someone carbon dates the vellum, and it’s from the Renaissance period.  Well.  Maybe it is a Da Vinci.

Not so fast!  A master forger shows how he can take an old painting, scrape off the paint, and paint a copy of a Monet on top of it.  This guy’s painting looks like the real thing, even when put next to the real thing.  He put a modern forgery on ancient canvas.  Carbon dating proves nothing.

So…. now what?

They bring in more technology.

We get X-rays, super high res photos, color filters, infra-red cameras, digital re-layering, 3D reproductions, extreme magnification, side-by-side comparisons with the Mona Lisa.  Special software.  Statistical comparison.  Historians.  Fashion experts.  Hairstyle experts.  Paint experts.

After all that, most, but not all, of these experts say:

It’s a fake.  Game over, thanks for playing.

Suddenly the painting is worth nothing.

What the hell — it’s still the same damned painting!  It hasn’t changed in the least.  The only thing that has changed is who people think painted it.

And it took a couple dozen experts with Terminator technology to figure that out.  No one could tell if they stood back and admired it.  You know, like the way you are supposed to appreciate art.

So that begs some fascinating questions:

When people buy art, what are they paying for?  The painting, or the artist?

Isn’t good art worth the same, no matter who created it?

Why is Picasso’s toilet paper worth more than an art student’s masterpiece?

I’ve seen the Mona Lisa up close, and she is captivating.  I’ve gaped at the Sistine Chapel in awe.  I loved Blue Water Lilies before I knew who painted it.  But this little painting I got in Mexico by some street artist for $10, well… it’s mine, and it makes me happy.

Advertisements

About Chris Weaver

anothermidnightwriter.com

Posted on 11/30/2013, in Misc and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Chris, your post made me chuckle as I had the same reaction reading this recent NYT article on an uncertain Jackson Pollock. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/25/arts/design/a-real-pollock-on-this-art-and-science-collide.html Worth millions if it’s authentic; worth only $50k if “attributed to Jackson Pollock.” What I didn’t understand is why $50k – that’s still a considerable sum! Sometimes it seems so random, the effort to price art.

    • The article doesn’t explain the difference between authentic and “attributed to”. I assume the latter means “owned”?

      Me, I don’t think the painting is worth $5 but what do I know.

      Interestingly, when you get crab in sushi it’s most often crab-flavored pollock (the fish). So when you order crab, make sure it’s *not* authentic pollock…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Fryguy's Blog

A Network Blog by a Network Engineer

Eli Glasman

Site of author Eli Glasman

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Writing Is Hard Work

Musings of a hard working writer.

(another) Midnight Writer

AC Weaver's writing site; author page

sethsnap

Photographs from my world.

%d bloggers like this: