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?


The one on the left is a Toyota, on the right a Chevrolet. The Toyota retained its value. As to the magnitude of the prices, uh...
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Frankly, I will never figure this out.

But a great documentary on this subject is called 'My Kid Could Paint That'. It follows a four year old abstract 'genius' painter and his oddly enough painter father...as well as the rest of the family. The young girl leaps to international attention in the art world very very quickly. There are plenty of twists that I won't give away, but in the end it's a really great examination of what exactly is great art.
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Not art. Or maybe I'm just uncultured.

It looks like the "artist" took a can and crumpled it up. Why it's worth so much is beyond me. I suppose it represents beauty to someone, but that someone isn't me. Any idea how big these things are? There's no clue to their scale.

I looked through the linked slideshow, and the painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Untitled (Boxer)” looks like something my 9-year-old doodled on the back of a church bulletin during a sermon.
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I think art which is this expensive should usually be seen as an investment. The buyer will sell it in twenty years and the price will have tripled.
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It seems many people inside the art circuit want the world to buy into the idea that anyone can do art.
Well, this is like saying that anyone can do a great movie.
When people go to an art exhibition and see awful pieces of "art" like these ones, they just usually say :"well, I don't know art, I don't know if it is good or bad". Mistake ! If you can tell a good movie from a bad one, or a good novel from a good one, then you can say if what you are watching in a gallery is good or it is not.
Very few people are able to create art. And when they do, you can really see. Just have a look at what Banksy is doing. It makes you think, it makes a statement.
The only statement these sculptures are making is : "there's something going really wrong here"
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Art is something that is created that evokes emotion. This is created but it really doesn't impress me. Makes you really question is it physically called art, can be duplicated by just anyone?
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I'm not impressed with this sort of crap being called "art", just disappointed that the con-job of the dealer and critic is so successful.
It's surprising to me that car-compactor operators all over the USA don't cash-in and start selling fakes of this sort of "art".
It's just like some twit randomly sloshing paint onto a canvas and the way art dealers & critics practically having a brain hemorrhage thinking up words to praise it with and (of course) inflate it's resale value.
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Um ... you got those backwards. The one on the right is the valuable one.

[snicker]

Things like this remind me of the emperor's new clothes.
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this shit just galls me. all these pretentious insecure showoff rich twits, shuffling their money around into big-name artists, most of them already dead, calling themselves patrons of the arts, when really they aren't doing a damn thing to support anything remotely vital. And I am going to be hanging a painting show this week, with some very solid work, and I'll be lucky if I can get a couple grand for anything, if that. If you took away the history of most of these pieces and asked them to stand on their own, they'd be next to worthless. The only part of this article I enjoyed was reading how some of them are having to take a loss on their stupid "investments". I despise using art for "investment value"; if it isn't going on your wall because you adore it, then leave it. Francis Bacon sucks, btw, what a one note cliche.
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Blurbing on a comment site doesn't stack up to the moxie it takes to make a sculpture that still has people grousing decades later.

How do you determine the value of the Google Ads sold on the Neatorama site? How do advertisers determine if their ad design is worth paying the designer for? Is that the same scale you use for assessing whether an experience is compelling, or whether an art object generates worthwhile social experiences?

How many "outraged" readers who cry "fraud" ever express an opinion or create something that is not already safely accepted as mainstream or "valid" in their circles? Of those that get that far, how many of them step-up and put themselves out there and take a risk - in a public way - that invites public scrutiny and judgment?
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So much hate for abstract and neo-expressionist artwork. Somebody here is really badmouthing Basquiat?

I have no opinion on the piece commented on here. Without seeing it in person, its dimensions, the materials its made of - how can you make a valuation of it?

I concur that art is subjective. Absolutely, 100% subjective. But badmouthing something just because you don't understand it makes you sound like a hater.
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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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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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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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