Why would one buy a painting? To adorn the walls of a house so that home looks better? Because one loves paintings just like someone else likes music? To cover the broken plaster? Because one's brother painted it? Because one is cultured? I can try and maybe eventually relate to all these. The tricky question is how much would I be willing to pay for one...
The most expensive painting ever sold was for $135 million - Portrait of Adele Bloch - Bauer painted by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. Paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso sell for upwards of 60 million dollars. The Mona Lisa may be worth more than 700 million dollars (so Wikipedia says)! There may be hundreds of paintings in the ten million dollars range? Highly possible.
I have to admit, though I have tried, I have never understood why someone would pay so much for a painting. Is it because they have tons of cash lying around and don't know what to do with it? Does looking at a picture indeed provide so much pleasure or satisfaction? Or it the pride that comes in owning something that absolutely noone else in the world has ?
(Is there any other collector's item in the world other than paintings / sculptures that is absolutely unique - coins, stamps are not. Books (original manuscripts) I consider different. A book, unlike a painting, can be duplicated since the essence is in the text not in what kind of paper, font, pen or ink the text was written with. Ming vases? Am not sure but I don't think so).
If someone had only(!?) 100 million dollars with him would he spend all his money to buy a couple Renoirs or Monets and live the rest of his life in penury? Can someone want a painting that bad? Can someone love a painting that much? I am not sure that any of the current Rembrandt or Salvador Dali owners would fall into that category and somehow I cannot picture anyone doing that.
Ego - We don't need Ayn Rand's Anthem to tell us about it. It is one of man's best and worst trait. To have something that noone else has - that would certainly feed the big E. I find this very believable. And I certainly wouldn't think it bad if someone bought an expensive painting just for the pride in being it's owner.
Does looking at the painting provide a subliminal or a spiritual experience? From my experience at the Louvre, I don't think so - at least not for the average man. All everyone wanted to do was rush to where the Mona Lisa was and click as many pictures as they could of her. I was actually expecting a sombre atmosphere with people gaping at the lady in awe and the lady smiling back at them. Instead there I was, blinded by all the camera flashes and found myself elbowing and avoiding elbows to get anywhere close to the picture. I don't think I was able to look at it for more than 15 seconds and I hadn't stopped e and avoiding e during those 15 seconds either. Maybe there were no real art lovers there. Maybe I can never look at a painting with an art lover's eyes and mind. So I can't answer this one. But I certainly would like to think that this plays the biggest role in someone paying a ton of money and picking up a painting.
Whatever be the real reason, I am sure there are enough and more people in the world who will keep the Christie's and Sotheby's very happy in the ages to come.
[Boney M didn't predict a rosy life for the painter man and they may have been right. The most expensive paintings today are those whose creators are long dead.]