Hidden Treasures
May 16, 2003 9:43 AM   Subscribe

"It's not often that a painting you can stick in your briefcase sells for $200,000." A recently discovered long-lost Tom Thomson painting was sold at auction for far more than it was estimated to fetch. Sure, the price tag pales in comparison to the most expensive painting ever, but it's nothing to sneeze at. Are these auction prices calculated, or just some random numbers that they pluck out of the air? How should the value of a piece of art be determined?
posted by debralee (4 comments total)
If you're an artist, you will suffer your whole life from seeing art that you know is garbage selling for mind-reeling amounts of money. The only way to keep your sanity is to remember that the value of anything is simply the highest price that someone is willing to pay for it. There is no ethical or political dimension to this fact, so don't take it personally. The factors that influence what someone will pay for something are incredibly complex and out of most people's control. So relax, and enjoy the art you like, and buy the art you can afford -- and make art that sells. (By the way $200,000 for a contemporary artwork you can stick in your briefcase is not at all unusual.)
posted by Faze at 10:15 AM on May 16, 2003

What Faze said. The beauty (no pun intended) of art auctions is that the price is set by the buyer -- you pay exactly what you think the object is worth. Or you don't. It's completely market driven.

If you are interested in buying art, however, there are always bargains to be had. You just have to be in the right place at the right time. At auction, I was fortunate enough the be able to pick up an original Pierre Bonnard etching (printed in the original pressing c. 1930, from his "La Vie de Sainte Monique" series) for only $60. Why? Because it is a fairly obscure image, and was in a small scale, non-art specific auction with appraisers who were more accustomed to wildlife artists like Terry Redlin than the Nabis.

Then there was the near-miss Gilbert Gaul oil that turned up at a local Goodwill store (5th paragraph under the Wednesday June 6th heading). It would have been a great find if it weren't in the store's "glass case" auction, and been noticed by a local gallery owner. I had the winning bid an hour before the auction's end (an extremely low bid, well under the final price might I add). It wound up selling to the dealer for $12,500.00. Still well under the arthouse auction "going rate" for a similar sized Gaul oil. Was I disappointed? Sure. But not because I lost the auction -- it ended at a fair price. Only because the "treasure hunter" in me was foiled.
posted by ScottUltra at 11:10 AM on May 16, 2003

My recently discovered long-lost Dukes of Hazard lunch box was also sold at auction for far more than it was estimated to fetch. But then again, I still had the thermos, so.....
posted by bradth27 at 1:09 PM on May 16, 2003

tommy thompson's paintings are all priceless, as are the entire group of seven artists' works, so 200,000 seems cheap to me even tho' i certainly don't have that kind of cash. i'm not at all suprised it went for more than it was estimated, i'm surprised that they thought it would go for less. his works are deeply beloved to an entire nation and beyond so for an unknown work to show up, well of course it was going to make a fair bit. no else has captured canada's northland the way he and his colleagues did, with the exception of emily carr.
posted by t r a c y at 1:13 AM on May 17, 2003

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