General Question

saintDrew's avatar

What makes art expensive?

Asked by saintDrew (557 points ) February 19th, 2011

I’d just like to know what you guys think. Is there some kind of criteria to follow? I need some input. thanks!

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22 Answers

peridot's avatar

Wow, art is such a broad topic. Do you mean it in general, or more like fine arts, craft shows, artisan-style products, that sort of thing…?

In some cases, a piece of art is hideously expensive to produce (i.e. glass work, etc.). The price there could be an effort to offset the cost of materials.

In other cases, it could be about artificially-inflated value. You will probably pay more for a hand-painted seashell on your trip to the coast for its future sentimental value, or lay down serious cash for a painting done by a well-known artist. That sort of thing.

I’m curious what sorts of responses you’ll be getting! :)

everephebe's avatar

I’ve put about $200 of paint onto a canvas before, and that takes time. Materials plus, work time, plus talent= It cost’s more than a toothbrush.

Meredith's avatar

I think with a new artist it’s subjective. How mainstream-attractive is it? Composition, detail, relevance? Popularity plays a part… be it the subject, or the medium used… Another big factor would possibly be it’s relation to effort – how time-consuming was the construction? Cost of materials? That sort of thing…
Beyond that, art grows in value in relation to it’s over-all popularity. Primarily to do with the artist, and then the art itself.
I’m with @peridot – I’m curious as to the answers your question is going to attract :)

RareDenver's avatar

Art is only ever worth what someone else is willing to pay for it, the fact that the materials used in the creation of the art have value is kinda immaterial.

everephebe's avatar

@RareDenver That’s true.

Ladymia69's avatar

I think a better tquestion would be: What is value, and how do you determine what sort of value an object has? People might argue to the contrary, but I believe it is very random and arbitrary, and that art and money should not be mixed, as putting a price or value on art trivializes it. Which causes art that doesn’t have a price on it to be trivialized as well. I’ve never sold a painting for more than $50, and the $50 one was for a food bank auction. I just never felt right popping a huge price on a painting when someone else could grab a paintbrush and paints and do it themselves.

hobbitsubculture's avatar

I agree that the cost of materials can run high with certain pieces. I know that some knitters who sell at craft shows get bad reactions from people who don’t understand that it costs a lot to buy even a scarf’s worth of yarn. Well-done items with quality materials have to cost more, otherwise the crafter/artist is just spilling out money to put their art into the world.

On the other hand, I’m familiar enough with certain types of art and craft to know that in some cases, you’re just being gouged. At one craft fair, I saw a single felt hair pin being sold for $12. There was no way the cost of materials was more than $.30, and even for someone as bad at sewing as I am, no way that it would take more than 20 minutes to make. At the same fair, I saw a hand bound book going for $45. I have a considerable amount of experience binding my own notebooks, and thing was less than an hour’s work, and not made of high quality materials. Even worse was a $75 painting that had actually been stenciled. A good stencil can take a few hours to make, but this was a 4” stencil of a simple cassette tape. And after the stencil is made, everything that comes from it is a five minute job.

So, short answer? Greed.

Hobbes's avatar

@RareDenver – Well, anything is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.

Scooby's avatar

Deceased artists! :-/

TexasDude's avatar

Supply and demand.

Same thing that determines the cost of just about anything else.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Materials,time,effort,pain and suffering fees tacked on for commission work… ;)

Hobbes's avatar

The thing is though that even if you expend a great deal in terms of materials, time, effort, pain and suffering, it won’t matter in monetary terms unless someone else is willing to pay for it. See, Van Gogh.

Plucky's avatar

I really don’t know ..because what confuses me is how a simple painting can cost millions. Example: White canvas with a big red streak of paint across it ..with a price tag of several million dollars. Really? Come on, lol. You’ve seen these types of paintings ..the basic type of reaction is “my kid could paint that”. Jeez, I’ve seen elephant and dolphin paintings better than some of the junk we see in art galleries.

My family considers me an artist. I do alot of sketches, mainly of animals, and sell one here and there. But I really have no idea how much to charge, so I go by what the person thinks it’s worth.

Nullo's avatar

Art is one of those things where the value is determined by the buyer. Maybe someone finds something compelling about a giant canvas daubed in red. Or perhaps they want the prestige associated with spending lots of money on art, but have no taste. If the piece is sold at auction, you have the weird magic of the bidding system to fix the price.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@Hobbes- Of course! That is true for any commodity. ;)

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Hobbes's avatar

I think it also has to do with the fact that we can easily reproduce images now. So, particular works of art tend to get their value from historical significance (whatever that means), rarity and authenticity. People go to a museum to see the Mona Lisa so they can say they’ve seen the “real one”, even though they’ve probably seen the image many times before. Of course, there is something different about actually seeing the painted canvas.

m0r60n's avatar

Cocky artists.

m0r60n's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Yupp, we learned about that in school, when we were learning about the Economy.

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