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Explore Valuation in Art

There’s a whole world of creativity out there to explore. Most of us probably think of paintings and sculpture when someone asks us, “What is art?” but the reality is that art encompasses so much more. There are many mediums to investigate, so many different techniques and methods of producing objects of beauty, and there are the art forms that encompass movement, sound, and performance. For this series of exercises students are encouraged to think outside the basics. There’s a lot of creativity to explore, here’s your opportunity to share the things that you find intriguing.

How much is something worth?

Valuation in art is sometimes difficult to understand. Why does one painting sell at auction for millions of dollars while a similar composition does not? Of course it matters who created the work in question. But sometimes the reasons seem mysterious, especially when the value seems oddly out of proportion to the work itself. For example, compare the difference in auction prices for a well-known work by Picasso (Links to an external site.) or Rembrandt (Links to an external site.) and you’ll see that both fetch high prices. Both are excellent examples of distinct styles of painting but a viewer may not value one as much as the other. That’s personal taste, and it certainly is a part of this conversation, but things can be more complicated…

There can be differences in materials that are intrinsically precious – and those that are made more valuable by perception. For example, pearls are relatively rare in the natural world but because people assign a high value to them, they become a desirable commodity. Pearls are now harvested in great quantities by seeding the oysters with tiny occlusions that irritate the organism and, as a result, produce a pearl.

The same ideas apply to art. Some pieces require painstaking effort and others do not. Some have high desirability, or are made of intrinsically precious material – both valued in human perception. The reverse is also true – perhaps explaining why we don’t appreciate certain works of art.

The Task:

  1. Select an art object with documented valuation (this may be a sales price or auction point) and identify the materials used to create the object, the title, and the artist. Discuss how the artist made an object of much greater value than the inherent worth of the raw materials – explain what factors, other than the creation process, might lead people to value it highly. (20 points)
  2. Your post should be a minimum of 250+ words and you should cite resources used. (5 points)

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