When most people see the prices for art, they are getting astonished. The figures may look especially incredible for abstract art while some of it may not require any outstanding painting skills and is more concentrated around an artistic idea.
Still, modern art pieces may go for millions, so answering why can be rewarding in itself. It is especially true for anyone interested in spending a considerable amount of money on art with the intent of decorating their space or making an investment. Art advisors can help, but buyers’ own understanding of the intrinsic value of their assets can’t be overestimated.
Sometimes, understanding the price of realistic art, for instance, works of old masters such as Leonardo or Michelangelo is much easier than that of minimalist art pieces with Kazimir Malevich works as one of the most famous examples. At the same time, the prices for the former follow the same principles as for the latter despite their obvious visual differences.
The original artworks with an artist’s signature command the highest prices. Limited number, high-quality copies or giclee prints of acclaimed artists can be a cheaper option, and, sometimes, can also increase in price, but one can never expect it to be as valuable as the original art.
While most of the top auctions and galleries do their own due diligence, buying art from private sources would always require an authenticity check to avoid scam. Thus the higher is the price, the more documents should go with the art piece.
The universal rule in the art market goes that art is worth so much as someone is going to pay for it. Art is a limited commodity existing in a single copy, with the only exception being limited edition giclees or fine art prints, signed by artists. Given the number of potential buyers interested to have a single existing piece of art literally bidding against each other, it’s no wonder that the bids go high.
The prices start soaring when the artist becomes universally known and acclaimed. After renowned artists pass away, the supply is over, and their works are automatically included in the canon, which drives the prices to infinity each year like in the case of Leonardo’s Salvatore Mundi sold for an astounding $450 million.
As artists grow, so do the prices for their art. Andy Warhol was happy to sell his famous Pepper Pot Soup series for $1,000 in 60s, which was resold for almost $12 million in the 90s. You could reasonably expect to find high-quality students’ art for several hundred dollars, paintings of young artists between $3,000-5,000, and highly-chased art of established artists for five, six or seven-digit figures.
The condition of an art piece is a starting point in determining the price. While aging is expected for paintings and even used in art forgery to make art look older and thus more expensive, it is not synonymous with deterioration due to improper humidity, light, or temperature. Keeping art in good condition is essential for its value, and naturally, a defect in an art piece would immediately decrease its price. On the contrary, a well-preserved authentic work of art commands the highest price not only due to its uniqueness but also because of the costs involved to keep it in its original condition.
Form and Material
Art exists in various forms, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, performing, and others. While we would leave the disputes about the superiority of painting over sculpture or photography or vice versa to advocates, speaking about painting, for instance, we would see that in general oil paintings are priced higher than watercolors while, at the same time, painting with watercolors is much less forgiving to mistakes and require perfect skills.
This comes as no surprise, given the longevity of oils compared to other paints, including acrylics, gouaches, or pastels. Given proper storage conditions, oil paintings can last for centuries, ever-increasing in price. Add to that visual resemblance of oil paintings to classic artworks, which is considered to bring higher status to their owners, and you will no longer wonder about the popularity of oil paintings and their higher prices.
Size of Art
A larger painting would most often command a higher price than the smaller art of the same artist as the former takes much more time and effort. At the same time, bigger artworks are attention magnets in any space while smaller works may not look so impressive.
An artist has to invest much more labor in a bigger work proportionate to its size attending to every inch. Larger size presumes a more complex or developed theme and the presence of a larger number of details addressed in an art piece. As a result, a bigger artwork takes much more energy, time, and resources, so naturally, artists would ask for higher remuneration.
Summing It Up
Art can be viewed from philosophic, cultural, or emotional aspects and, as such, be considered invaluable as an expression of the human soul and product of our culture. Correct as it might be, this is of little help when we try to understand why art is so expensive or how much it will cost in the future.
It becomes much more clear when one thinks of art as goods or property, which is priced according to the same laws as any other commodity, however rare and exclusive it might be, such as collectible cars, gems and gold, classic watches or fine wines and spirits. The price of art is determined by many factors, including its uniqueness and authenticity, condition, size, and material, but the demand, showing how much one is going to pay, unsurprisingly proves itself as the most important.