Monday, April 14, 2008

4/14/2008 - The worth of Art

I have been wanting to see the photography exhibit of Dorothy Kerper Monnelly called "The Great Marsh". So on saturday I went into the city to check out the Panopticon Gallery located in the Commonwealth Motel in Kenmore Square.

Ms. Kerper Monnelly's work is very nice, but I was taken aback by the asking price of her prints (in some cases $1200 for just the print... you pay more to have it matted and framed). I am by no means an art collector, nor do I claim to understand this particular niche. But, $1200 for something that can be readily reproduced without a great deal of effort is tough for me to fathom. That said, I am aware that some photographic prints fetch a great deal more than this in the market. As a photographer, I appreciate that much of what one is paying for is the skill required to capture and finish the image. But, still...

Now, let's look at this from the opposite angle. To get to Kenmore Square, I decided to walk Newbury Street from the Park Street station and check out some of the art galleries. Now, I know art is subjective and everyone has their own tastes in what they like, but in my subjective opinion... there is a lot of crap out there.

Here's one example. I walked into the 3rd floor Newbury Street gallery and all I saw were squares. Everywhere.... squares. There were approximately 10 paintings all hung like they were to be admired and gauked at. But, the truth is that I wouldn't hang them on my fridge. I don't know for sure the medium in which this artist works, but it appeared to me to be oils and tape. It was as if he laid out various squares on canvas with tape, overlaid the entire canvas with paint, then removed the tape after the paint dried. And every piece was based on the same principle. Different colors and layout of squares, but...

Another example was at another gallery where the artist made very large paintings that were very geometrically balanced and seemed like they could have been done with oversized ink stamping kits like my daughters use. An example would be something like a flat red sky, green land (1/3 up) and far over to the right, flush with the horizon line, a square house with a triangle roof. Oh, but then the real selling quality of this art is apparently the fact that she dips the entire piece in some sort of clear plastic or latex and allows the large drip marks to remain at the bottom of the piece. You may ask why. Not to worry, the artist displays a written statement that explains that her work portrays the greed and despair of mankind (or something to that effect).

Now, one could argue forever whether these examples qualify as "art". My opinion (not that it matters) is that in all cases, it does. Somebody took the effort to produce something that was meaningful to them and we have to assume some of their heart and soul went into it.

My question is, what is this art really worth? In each case, the asking prices for the various pieces were in the thousands. Is anyone REALLY paying that for this kind of work? I suppose somebody is, but then I have to ask.... why? I suspect there is a bit of "Emperor's New Clothes" syndrome going on in the Art community. It's expensive, so it must be good. It will be interesting what collectors will be getting for this work in 100 years.

But, maybe I'm just jealous that nobody is writing me a $1k check for my work. I think I need to bump up my prices.