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  • Beverley Skurulis

Your idea of ‘expensive’ art may be different to mine.

I was recently reading an article on the two most expensive art pieces sold by living artists. Now art is pretty subjective, everyone has their idea of what’s a fair price and what could be considered outrageous, but it does amaze me how there is a voracious appetite for ‘must-have’ art.


Let’s put some numbers into perspective. Passing by several local art galleries I’ll often see some pretty uninspiring, cumbersome works by local artists on sale for a few hundred dollars. I truly can’t see the value in them, evoking no emotion in me and no desire to hand over my hard-earned money.


Some though are truly beautiful and I can feel the heart and soul of the artist within. Worthy candidates for a space in a home or office, whether for $200 or $20,000 would be a steal. My emotions are triggered, desire to own a unique piece that speaks to me or simply it’s because it would brighten up a bare wall.

What makes an artist’s work of art worth $200, $20,000, or $2 million? In the case of living artists, Jeff Koons ‘Rabbit’ and ‘Portrait of an Artist’ by David Hockney, sold for over USD 90 million each. (AUD 132 Million) or Leonardo Da Vinci's painting ‘Salvatore Mundi’ for a mind-boggling USD 450 million? (AUD 60 million)?

On the other hand, consider poor old Vincent Van Gogh who never sold a painting until only seven months before he died in 1890, just receiving 400 Francs, around USD 2000 in today’s money, for ‘The Red Vineyard’.


In 1990 his painting ‘Portrait of Dr Gachet’ sold for USD 149 million (AUD 218 million). Seems all a bit unfair, unless you had been the buyer who eventually cashed sold at the right time.

Are these works ‘expensive’?

What seems over the top and expensive in your eyes to others will be a bargain. Not expensive at all, in fact, affordable in the right circles. It’s all relative.


Emotion, greed, timing, rarity and history all play a part in how art and artist will be valued. Art buyers who look only at the investment potential bid aside the buyer who is buying emotionally, for the love of the work and/or for the ego and prestige.


No matter which camp they ‘re in, market demand decides the value. And that is where art comes into its own (including classic cars, watches, jewellery, antiques etc.). For business owners and investors there are also tax advantages to holding investment grade art, further increasing competition amongst buyers.


Whatever price you pay for a piece of art is only relevant to what you can afford at the time. The purchase will be justified, and the financial pain short-lived. Bad art is expensive, any other a true bargain.


So, consider the next time you are viewing art in a gallery, if you could view each piece without knowing the price and just go totally on what you feel which would you choose?


Once the price was revealed would you be shocked or pleasantly surprised? Would you feel compelled to be the owner of that one unique piece?


I for one have recently had such a dilemma, on seeing a local artist's painting hanging in a local shop. From the window, I thought the price tag said $350. I had to have it, but then inside the gallery, I saw an extra zero…$3500…I reluctantly put my credit card away. My new bathroom is taking a higher priority but each time I pass that gallery I check to see if it’s still on the wall.


I can justify it, I just can’t afford it, at least not yet...

Article contributed by. Terry King

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