The Theory of Subjective Value in The Art World


From an interesting piece in The American:

Damien Hirst has made a fortune as a celebrity artist in a country he believes disapproves of successful artists: "I think in England especially, people are anti any kind of success really. You're struggling and you cut your ear off; they like that kind of artist. Whereas if you're making money . . . They'd rather you were working on a building site and painting in a garret somewhere. I'd say that's a problem." He has seen through the pretense, and recognizes that the art world has materialistic values: "I have proved it to myself that art is about life and the art world's about money. And I'm the only one who . . . knows that. Everyone lies to themselves to make it seem like it's the other way. But it isn't." He is not troubled by the fact that the market determines the value of art: "I'm one of the few people in the world who can say, 'I know what everything is worth.'… Everything in the whole world is worth what anyone else is prepared to pay for it. And that's it. Simple."

David W. Galenson's article includes trenchant observations about Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and others. Read the whole thing here.

Back in 2008, I reviewed The $12 Million Stuffed Shark, a book that looked at the price of art, and concluded, "[The author] recognizes that value is dependent on context. Objects themselves have no intrinsic worth; what we're willing to pay at any given time is a result of the stories we tell ourselves." Read that here.