Monday, September 11, 2006

Painter Man

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.]


anand said...

You seem to have omitted a very obvious reason people buy art - as an investment! Like stocks, real estate and gold, art is a very good investment these days! The supply is very limited - you have only one original - which means even if 10 people want to buy it, you have a demand that is 10 times the supply! ;-)

I would say, it is a very attractive investment if we have the ability to spot the right ones! ;-)

Kenneth said...

Anand - Point taken. Never thought about that. Probably because I was trying to think from a collector's point of view? But will I be right in assuming a collector will never sell?

anand said...

A collector might acquire one of it just as a hobby - like someone picks up a ferrari - for the show-off value!

But what keeps the value of the piece going up is really the nature of demand and supply! In this case, the supply is very acutely limited - therefore, even if there only one additional person who wants to acquire the painting, the price will shoot up!

Of course, there's a very high chance that the generations to come may not really fancy that painting - in which case, the value of the painting naturally falls!

Anything where the demand exceeds the supply - like even vintage cars - is something whose price is bound to head northward!

Anonymous said...


Does this topic have anything to do with the the painting/drawing attached under 'unravelling the womb' topic.
If it does, then you agree with my conclusion that you are an egoistic person who just wanted to post a weird painting on your blog page (as opposed to art critics who want to hang photos on walls).

Also painting are really bad investments, atleast the really expensive ones. As they do not have any ongoing revenue streams and rely solely on capital growth. Also, such expensive paintings dont have a existing market out there, hence carry significant transaction costs when they need to be sold.

Thats all for now

Confused, injured soccer player!

Kenneth said...

CISP, Anand - supply demand, revenue streams, capital growth. Phew!

CISP - I started out on this post as a follow up to the wierd-photo one but I digressed completly. Explanations for Unravelling the Womb still remain and will be given.

yesbob said...

60 mil eh !! I must paint some more, then ...