Is big art all about big bucks nowadays?
It certainly seems that way at the moment with two mega sales that took place in May 2007. Andy Warhol's 1963 painting Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) sold for an eye watering £35m. But even that was beaten by White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) by Mark Rothko. Just 10 years ago, this artist's top price was $3.74 million. Two years ago it was $22 million. In May 2007, White Center sold for a staggering $72m (£36m) making it the most expensive work of post war art ever sold at auction.
You might wonder what a $72m painting looks like. Well, White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) has been described as looking like a giant liquorish allsort.
'I cannot understand why an individual would chose to spend Pounds 36.8million of his own money on a painting which, very obviously, could have been done by anyone's four-year-old daughter.'
- Jeremy Clarkson
'There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing.'
- Mark Rothko
Works of art are only worth what people are willing to pay for them. The price for a painting is not linked to the materials or to the effort gone into making them. And once you know the top end of the art world is dominated by around 12 billionaires, these massively inflated prices become a little easier to understand. If one of these billionaires has several Warhols and Rothkos at home and the price is lifted three or four times in a week, then the price of all their other Warhols and Rothkos is lifted as well.
However, is that just a bit too simplistic? What about genuine rarity and what price genuis? If you consider every work of art created by an artist to be exclusive and irreplaceable, then perhaps these vast sums become more understandable. After all, there is nothing else quite like them in the world. If you have your heart set on one particular painting, and nothing else will do, then you have to be prepared to pay.
And, if the painting you're after is by a painter many other people are interested in as well, then you'd better be prepared to pay out quite a bit more for its desirability and exclusivity.
Do you think the art world has gone crazy?
Are you an artist? Do you sell your work?
Are you an art collector? How much would you pay for a work of art?
Do you think if every work of art is unique and individual, each work of art is priceless in its own way?
What price genius?
Do you believe like William Blake that where any view of money exists, art cannot be carried on?