This is a question that has been troubling me for some time and of course there is no easy answer.
Often, without much expert knowledge, but with a bit of practice, it becomes possible to spot work that appears to be technically of a very high calibre and potentially valuable. But sometimes it is not the technical quality that matters but more the message or the medium. Sometimes just the ability of the artist or his representatives to commercialize the work. As I heard Grayson Perry once say, the intrinsic value of a painting is virtually nothing – a canvas, some paint and maybe a wooden frame. So what is it that converts that to a work of art worth millions of dollars?
Perhaps put in another way, would Damien Hurst and some of the other YBAs (Young British Artists) have ever attracted the values they did had not Charles Saatchi decided to back them and create a massive market?
I have spent a lot of time in the past couple of years visiting gallery openings, exhibitions such as Frieze, Affordable Art and the London Art Fair and this question still troubles me. A few weeks ago, I attended the final of a graduate art competition. One of my clients was exhibiting there. Most of the works of art on display had price tags around £2,000 – £3,000 – the sort of core price you can find at the Affordable Art Fair. But there was one piece hanging on the wall that looked different to the others. For a start, it was larger but its style was more traditional. I took a closer look and found it had a price tag of £12,000. To me, it was worthy of exhibition in an Oxfam shop and might have had a price tag of £100. So I’m still very confused. Maybe that’s the point!
I would love to hear in one-sentence snippets what others think, how you would define the value of art.
Keith Graham – Managing Partner