The concept of art has always been a fairly controversial topic of discussion. It can be argued day and night for what gives art its value and why, but ultimately the most commonly agreed upon idea that gives art its value is the idea that a work of art is valuable because it is unique. When a masterpiece painting is a one of a kind, why shouldn’t it be a valuable work of art? But why does something that isn’t necessarily one of a kind, such as a digital painting done by artist Jasmine Chehli worth just as much? Should something’s accessibility really be allowed to affect its worth, or should something be valued based solely on its own merits. But what of the cultural value of a work of art, shouldn’t that impact its value. Should a work of art be priceless because of its cultural value and not because of its uniqueness, I believe so.
However this concept of value is rapidly changing in the art world with the advent of the internet and the rise of digital art. How do we value something when it is spread across the internet and is immediately available. The idea of availability influencing the value of art is nothing new, a signed copy of a Jimi Hendrix album is substantially more valuable because the person who signed it is deceased. Where as, a golden age fantastic Four comic book signed by Stan Lee is barely worth anything greater because of the signature. This is because Stan Lee is still alive, so why shouldn’t this idea apply to paintings. A Van Gough is priceless because he is deceased, no more will be made. But a painting done in Photoshop and post on the internet is easily obtainable. This begs the question, why should something so easily obtainable be worth the same as something that is one of a kind?
It is in my own personal opinion that something’s value should be based in it’s cultural wealth. A work of art does not have to be worth millions of dollars for it to be of value. A strong example of this concept is Thomas E. Franklin’s, “Raising the Flag at Ground Zero”. The Cultural significance of this photograph for The United States is unparalleled, and yet the photograph is not worth millions. This is because it is available all across the internet. Does this mean that it is any less deserving to be hung in a museum? I do not believe so. We live in a world were everything has value and making a profit is the end of everything. As much as we would like to disagree, art is no exception to this, in the end, we all look to make a profit. Because of this however, artwork that is easily spread and duplicated suffers and does not gain any value.
This isn’t a problem that stops its reach at only paintings and other forms of traditional and computer art, this is an issue that extends itself to all forms of art. Take film for example, film is an art in and of itself and it suffers the same fate that computer art does. The movie Citizen Kane has been referred to as one of history’s greatest films, its cultural worth and impact are insurmountable in the world of film and stands as a work of art in and of itself. And yet, when I go on Amazon.com, I can get it on DVD for no more than thirty dollars. How is it that something of such cultural value can be worth so little? Surely its impact alone should make it be worth large amounts of money, but no. Because it is a film and easily reproduced, its value is diminished to being worth almost nothing per individual copy. And that is the operative word in the concept of value in art, “copy”, because something is so easily copied it immediately loses its value.
But in spite of a loss to monetary value, works of art like Citizen Kane, still have and always will have their cultural value. And that says something for itself. The idea that something can be valuable because it is important to a country or group of people is a powerful idea and as artists is something we should seek to embrace wholly. This idea applies to any genre of art, whether it be traditional, digital, music, movies or games. All genres of art suffer from this. Digital art however seems to suffer the greatest because people truly believe that a work of art has no monetary value if it is easily copied. But what if it had cultural value, should it be so quickly dismissed. I don’t believe so, however many artist do believe this, an article on itsartmag.com encounter the very type of person that is enforcing this belief. The man said, “Just tell me how many copies exactly like these digital artworks you could do and tell me how you would know which is the original one. On the other hand, no one has another copy like this oil painting. It’s unique.”, he also went on to say, “….its about the money not just the art,”. It is that line of thought that has consumed our beliefs about art and is what is keeping this industry from progressing.
In a world where we are obsessed with making as much money as possible before our death, I feel as though we have lost sight of what is truly important in art. A work of art should be valued based on its cultural value, it should be priceless because it is worth more to us than any dollar amount. It shouldn’t be priceless because the artist of the piece has died and wont be making anymore, or because the piece is impossible to perfectly reproduce. We’ve lost sight of the fact that art shouldn’t be valued based on a monetary amount, it should be valued based on what it is worth to us as a culture.
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“Citizen Kane.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 June 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.
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