K.Braithwaite The Value of Art

Art not only contains visual content, it has a voice. However, how can you justify how much value that voice holds? Does the cost of paint, canvas or brushes dictate the value? Or does the popularity of the artist and how often their work is created holds that value? Attempting to come up with a conclusion could take as long as the next ice age! Nonetheless, throughout artistic history we have seen the creations of work from Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock or Andy Warhol and how they have influenced the commodity or cultural wealth within society.

When people think about buying art the first word that comes to mind is overpriced. This in many cases is true. It is doubtful that many of us are willing, and/or able to buy a Van Gogh painting for $28 million. A plethora of work by big name artists is out of reach for most buyers. However, a point that must be remembered are the values of lesser-known artists’ works can increase and often at greater rates than those of the big names. A simple answer would be that it is determined by what the buyer is willing to pay for the work and what the current owner is willing to sell the work for. Secondly the economic principle of supply and demand applies: when an artist, culture or generation dies, the supply ceases and if the demand increases, it results in higher prices. If you are interested in the latest trend in the art world, you will have to pay top dollar for it. If a particular style has become fashionable its prices go through the roof. Jackson Pollock, an abstract expressionist artist, founded the creation of splatter painting that in theory is tangible for any person even babies to create. Pollock had quite the precision for placing specific colors and drips along the canvas to create uniquely defined styles. Pollock creations were so simple yet so high in value. According to Wikipedia, Pollock was most prominent during the “drip period” between 1947 and 1950. This is significant because as stated prior, when you have knowledge of newly trended art, it is beneficial to obtain those pieces so you can remain in the fad life with profitable pieces. Finally, Andy Warhol was an American artist who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. One of Warhol’s most famous pieces was of the repetition of the Campbell’s soup cans. Warhol wanted to implement an assembly line to produce a mass production of pieces of work. The value of these pieces collectively depended on the quantity of the piece. If the prints were closer to a single digital number then the value of the prints were greater and more valuable.

Walter Benjamin best explained it in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. He acknowledged the advantages of being able to mass-produce. “A work of art that once could only be seen by the wealthy in a museum or gallery could be reproduced at little cost and made accessible to many more people” (Walter). Historical art has a greater value than the art that is being produced today by for since the aspect of technology has been introduced to society allowing work to be multiplied rapidly. The advantage of having the ability to utilize technology, the value of art is slowly decreasing and can easily be reproduced.  I could easily go to a Google search engine and type in “Jackson Pollock” and print out one of his masterpieces on a canvas and hang it in my house. So basically the value of this painting went from thousands or millions to the price of ink and paper? Think about it!

Works Cited

Kazis, Richard. “Benjamin’s Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Trans. Benjamin Walter. Jump Cut. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.

Wikipedia. “Andy Warhol.” the Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.

– – -. “Jackson Pollock.” the Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. <;.




  1. Kiara,
    Agreed on many levels. Visual or cultural value is at odds here. Value in monetary means is always a simple commodity issue. Supply and demand. However once a piece of work signifies a turn in history or in cultural tenant its value could soar.
    A pamphlet from a major historical event – which is what a piece of art could be considered – could be priceless depending on how many are still around. But yet that event is priceless. MAny questions still to be answered here but I need you to understand the plethora of issues to be thought of when it comes to determining value.

  2. The age of technology has definitely influenced the art industry in many facets. I think artists that post work should be VERY cautious as copyright may be infringed upon. I don’t think though that we should weigh an actual original to a print by ANY stretch of the imagination. They are two completely different representations.
    Thanks for the article, as an artist it really does make one more thoughtful about the art industry.

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