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The Mystery of Art Valuations


L: Ca-D'Oro (1964) R: Spike (1964) both by John Chamberlain
Photo: Sotheby's, Christie's Images Ltd via The New York Times

Take a look at these two 1964 sculptures by John Chamberlain. The one to the left, titled Ca-D'Oro is valued at between $1.8 million to 2.2 million by Sotheby's whereas the one to the right, titled Spike, is valued by Christie's at between $900,000 to $1.2 million.

They look the same, made by the same artist in the same year. So why the price difference? Carol Vogel wrote an article for The New York Times about the pricey world of art:

Both of these colorful crushed metal sculptures are from the artist’s prime period, when he used everyday objects, like abandoned car parts. He often sprayed as many as 100 coats of lacquer on the steel to achieve the surface he desired.

Estate property is generally more reasonably priced, and Christie’s has given the Lawrence heirs a guarantee. That means the auction house rather than the estate can set the prices. The one at Sotheby’s seems to have been estimated at the whim of an auction house expert — or possibly a hungry seller.

Link - via Book of Joe

Better question: why is it worth so dang much in the first place?


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Newest 5 Comments

To Kat and Open To Doubt, I fully 100% agree. I'm an art student myself and HATE hearing people that know next to nothing about the art world bashing my art. I put a lot of time, money, and love into my work, even if no one will understand it. That's the point of art - to evoke emotions and questions. And I especially hate when people talk about art work like "Oh yeah, that artist just slapped some paint down on a canvas and called it a day." That is just proof they really don't understand the process of creating art. There is a huge thought process and much time put into a piece, and generally there is a meaning behind them. If you can understand the meaning you will probably understand the piece more. But when you know how it was made, then you can truly appreciate it. Oh and another thing, no, your 9 year-old kid cannot reproduce REAL art.
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if artists are phony, then i'm proud to call myself a phony. there are 2 things people tend to forget

1) often, not just "artists" make art...
if artists are phony, and we get away with selling work for outrageous sums i can only assume this:
-your house is ugly
-your car is hideous
-if you have tattoos, those are unfathomable pieces of crap
-your furniture is hideous
there are so many other examples. hell, if you have a lawn then it is ugly. landscaping, architecture, design, body art, all of these are pieces of crap because artists are phony.

2) yes, buying art can be expensive but you also have to factor in: supplies (which believe me are not cheap) the man hours put into it, the concept of the idea, the cost for electricity/gas (such as in ceramics or glass blowing), the cost of equipment, etc. there have been many times in my life where i've lived off of peanut butter sandwiches and water in order to save money for more supplies. and if no one bought one of those pieces, my pride wasn't hurt... just my checkbook. most people that wish to become artists, never make that money back.

everyone is an artists in their own right... of course, no one can understand all the different nuances of them... for example, arranging flowers or landscaping. i honestly don't understand the difference in the flowers or grass etc... but that doesn't mean i can't appreciate that someone put their time and money into that project. i respect them for wanting to make the world more beautiful.

so please, don't judge artists. i get tired of people assuming that since i'm an artist, i'm some sort of dirty worthless hippie who just can't hold down a job. i go to school full time, i work, i pay my bills, i don't do drugs. this is just how i wish to spend my life.

if you don't like something, we'll listen to your criticism. but make sure its more than just "thats ugly/crap" or "my kid could do it". EXPLAIN why you don't like it. we're living our lives as we dreamed. and please don't repress your child's artistic talents.
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Reminds of the episode from the Simpsons where Homer becomes an "arteest" when he uses his anger to beat the BBQ set he tries to build into submission.
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