Why Are Paintings So Expensive?

When priceless pieces of art get stolen from the big galleries in the major cultural centers of the world, people go crazy, the media has a field day and prophets proclaim the ending of the world, the four horsemen returning and Tom eating Jerry. But when they make the announcement on the news, they have a digitally rendered billion trillion pixel, perfect copy of the original sat behind them. Why are the originals so valuable when everyone and their dog can have the same picture printed off and wallpapered in their downstairs loo?


Maybe before the invention of the camera and the printing press, you could justify that a painting was something valuable, as there would be no other way of recording that priceless moment when an orange sat in the same bowl as an apple and a banana. But with a photograph you can take a picture of a painting or the scene itself, capturing its every minute detail. Surely this should take some value from the original rendering.


Criminals being criminals, they have delved into the art world with reckless abandon and brought with them, art students, jealous wannabe masters and copycats alike. Their skills can be used to copy, stroke for stroke, old and new paintings so that their version has every single quality that an original has. Surely if you had no way of telling that this was in fact not the original, then what happens to its value? It should go down right?


Art is big business. There are millions and millions of paintings out there. A hundred thousand million bowls of fruit, a trillion half naked women, a great many old men on horses and a rather large amount of blue squares next to red triangles. With new artists streaming out of art colleges daily all with their own thing to add to the art melting pot, why do some paintings demand million pound price tags, while they budding artists who can barely afford drawing inks can’t paste their pictures on a bus stop without the council power washing it off. Sheer volume of art should surely drag the price of art down. It’s basic economics. Why, why, why?

Sheer exclusivity is the answer. Owning the original version of a painting by a grand old master like ‘Renoir’ or ‘Monet’ is like having the only copy of a section of his soul. The fact that a painting is so well known and copied endlessly just adds to the individuality of having the original. This is why, when an artist dies, their work is suddenly worth so much more: because they can’t make anymore originals. Art will always be expensive because it is such a personal, emotional thing, and especially if it is by someone famous.

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