Art has the ability to have an emotional impact on people and works of art such as the Mona Lisa and Starry Night are visited by thousands of people each day, as if they are something to be worshipped. The painting The Card Players by Paul Cézanne, is currently the most expensive work of art that went for sale during an auction or private sale, and it was sold for 259 million dollars in 2011 (Wiki Contributors). What exactly makes a painting worth millions of dollars and how does the value of art change as we advance into a digital world?
Art used to be about one of a kind work, and when someone purchased a piece of art they were now the owner of the work that no one else could have. The world has however changed and mediums like lithographs, screen-prints, photographs, and digital paintings are able to produce works of arts that can be mass-produced. No longer does there have to be only one copy of an artwork. As a digital artists myself I face the issue of if my art can be reproduced, is it still valuable?
I believe that as the world evolves, so must art. Art isn’t just about paintings and sculpture anymore but the digital world plays an important part in today’s society. The value of art shouldn’t depend on the rarity of the work but the meaning and value it has on a person. I personally apply a traditional painter’s methods to a computer by using a tablet to translate my brush strokes directly to a screen. I unfortunately have been told that this is “cheating.” If I had created the exactly same painting on a real canvas rather than my digital canvas then it is seen as more valuable. Traditional painting is seen as a more difficult creation method, as the artist doesn’t have an undo button and they have to pay for the expensive paints in order to work. This doesn’t make digital art easy. Digital artists spend the same amount of time on a painting and though they do get an undo button, I take advantage of it making sure that if my stroke wasn’t perfect the first time, I will repeat it until I feel satisfied. Digital art is not cheap as the artist must buy the software, which is yearly upgrading with more features and they must use a tablet to create their work. Tablets enable pressure sensitively allowing the tablet to create an accurate brush stroke depending on how hard the artist is pressing down on the tablet, and with some practice it can become as natural as pencil on paper. The tablets are unfortunately not cheap and tablets without a screen directly on them can cost a person five hundred dollars, while tablets with a screen can cost two thousand dollars. When everything is said and done and the painting has been printed and is hanging, I don’t believe that the process of which it was created should matter. The only thing that matters are the impact and reaction it is able to garner from its audience.
According to Benjamin’s Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Richard Kazis, Benjamin discuss he invention of the lithograph as a benefit as it allowed the lithograph to be easily spread to the public (Kazis). It enabled art to become something that everyone can see, not for those who were wealthy or able to physically go to a museum (Kazis). Benjamin further goes on to say:
Once lithography had been perfected, the illustrated newspaper was the logical next step. The development of photography by the late 1800s further accelerated the speed of production. It was only a matter of time and technology before film, the next step in the progression toward more exact representation in mans communications, evolved to its maturity (Kazis).
Technology helped to record events and reproduce art and allowed society to become for culturally advanced. Benjamin “lauded the potential democratization of the communications media and the arts implicit in advances in mechanical reproduction” (Kazis). Benjamin also understood that with this new technology that the uniqueness of a piece of art was also being destroyed and that it was inevitable (Kazis). He saw this as a way to break down the “mystique of the original” and to make the art more about art for art’s sake, making it lose its false importance (Kazis). The reproduction of art turns art from being an idol to worship, to truly a piece of art.
“List of Most Expensive Paintings.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 May 2013. Web. 09 Nov. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_paintings>
“JUMP CUTA REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA.” Benjamin’s Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Richard Kazis. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2013. <http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC15folder/WalterBenjamin.html>