Walsh- The Value of Certain Works of Art

Very often, when I spot a piece of Artwork I think to myself, “What makes this piece so valuable?” and I’m sure that I am not the only one to wonder that from time to time. There is a lot of information that goes into whether or not a piece is valuable and it is assessed on “the recent market valuations of similar works”(Marks). The top piece of information that is necessary in deciphering value is “who created this piece of art?”. Is the artist well known? If it’s made by “a group or assistants to an individual artist, it will probably be worth less” (Marks). Dead artists have finite pieces so they are no longer able to be made, increasing value. If the art is unique and rare it is worth more than something that has multiples in production. The thing about prints and sculptures is that even though there will be more than one, they have a limit that they set to the edition such as 3,6,50 or a few thousand. Multiples just tend to have a lesser value. When we get into multiples there is a difference between a complete replica being printed or a series of similar pieces that have different additives of color or a few different images all from the same series. When they are different but are meant to go together the value may go up as a whole and an individual might strive to collect more than one piece in the series.
Art needs to be well composed, and even the simplest of pieces have great thought and composition, which is what the buyers are looking for. Spontaneous production “of disciplined compositions, including Sumi ink can be valuable based on grace of execution” (Marks). Also, the bigger the work, the higher the value. The medium being used is a great factor as well, and the value of the different types from highest value to lowest are as follows; “oil works, pastel, acrylic, water color, collage, ink, pencil, prints, and last but not least digital works” (Marks). It’s interesting to me that on that scale Digital works are the least valuable because now we are in a Digital Era and we need to figure out a way to increase the value of Digital Art while allowing it to be adaptable to different technological advances.
Not all people feel the same way that reproducing a piece of work will decrease its value. After reading the article on Benjamin’s Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Richard Kazis, I further learned about Lithography and how it created a way for many people to receive a print from the same master plate, reaching a bigger audience. By reaching a larger audience, not only the wealthy people visiting museums, it was made cheaper which in turn lowered the value of the artwork. This reproduction process lowers the authenticity of the artwork, and Benjamin called it “the aura of the piece” but he also says that the “Value of art no longer stems from its ritualistic cult value, whether it be magical cult, religious cult or secularized cult […] in photography, it makes no sense to ask for the “Authentic” print”(Kazis). Does a movie have a lower value because many people own it on dvd? Does a photograph need to be the original print to have the same value of a copy?
Andy Warhol is a printmaking genius and he takes well known images and expands the horizons by changing colors and positions. A picture with 8 identical Elvis’ is worth $100 million. A turquoise Marilyn Monroe is worth $80 million. He does self portraits and other well composed images that are all printed and they still have a high value. Ansel Adams is a photographer and most (if not all) of his images are black and white and his work is worth a ton of money, and it is all photographs. He can duplicate and duplicate until the strip of film wears away and I don’t think the value should go down at all. Durer’s prints can be bought online for anywhere from $39.99 to $149.99 and his prints are magnificent but since they can be duplicated using the prints their value is less.
Based on the fact that digital art has one of the lowest artistic values, it makes me believe that if it wasn’t a photograph on a SD card and instead a photograph on a roll of film, the value would increase but that shouldn’t be the case. I believe that any piece of artwork that can be printed out or put on video is just as much art as something that needs to be processed in a dark room or painted for months at a time. Times are changing and I think artistic value needs to change with it. Just because our means of creation are more high tech doesn’t mean artists should be penalized for using the technology available to them. A duplicate is easier to get but doesn’t make it any less valuable in my eyes and the system is so misconstrued that value seems to be like the rolling of dice.

Works Cited:

Kazis, Richard. “Benjamin’s age of mechanical reproduction.” Jump Cut. N.p., 2004. Web. 7 Nov. 2013. <;.

Marks, Tia. “What makes an Art Work Valuable.” Art Now. N.p., 04 Jan 2012. Web. 7 Nov. 2013. <;.


One comment

  1. Ashley,

    Well written and some very good logic here at times. This discussion can and should go much deeper. However you are doing it justice in this paper. The references are well used and appropriate therefore the rhetoric is justified. I hope these are helping you form deeper opinions and with greater structure of logic.
    Good work.

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