Human value is the value you can give to others, this also applies to objects and in this case; artwork. Society, on the other hand, tends to regard monetary wealth as the most important thing the measure of value. But when a shamefully rich man buys a ridiculously expensive picture, then puts it on the wall in his living room, where no one can see it, or worse; in a bunker at an airport in Switzerland, there absolutely no one is allowed to see it, then the artwork loses its value. At the same time, the artist is dependent on one benefactor, someone who buys the art. That is why we are in Florence, because the Medici family was like that important for the development of art in the 14th and 15th centuries. So much so that it is said that 10 of the 100 biggest the artists in the world come from Florence, in this time period.
It all started with Cosimo. The man who founded the bank and laid the foundation for what would become one of Europe’s most powerful families for centuries. He had just read Dante’s Inferno, which was written in Florence, about a hundred years earlier. It described the seven rings of hell and in it in the innermost circle there were three types: Sodomites, blasphemers and moneylenders. At least he was one of the three and was terrified of going to hell. Therefore he had a large, ornate monastery built with beautiful art. In fact, he was so neat that when the monastery was finished, he had it knocked into stone, that this he left from his sins.
Cosimo’s grandson Lorenzo was allowed to take over the family business, even though he was nothing interested in banking. He thought it was boring. On the other hand, he loved art and therefore started Europe’s first art school, where, among others, Michelangelo went. And when the budding young artist came out in courtyard of the Medici palace, he was so inspired by the Greek and Roman sculptures they had there, that he almost threw away his paintbrushes and became the world’s leading sculptor. And this might be one of the greatest values of art, that it should inspire others, both artists and lay people, to produce new works of art, thoughts and ideas.
Art can have many functions, but if we are to believe Duchamp’s “Readymades”, it is only the idea which has value. The object itself does not have to have any function other than being art. It is the artist’s vision that gives it value and meaning. Maurizio Cattelan perhaps went even further, when he i 2019 duct tape a banana to the wall at the world’s largest art fair, Art Basel in Miami. The banana was sold to three different buyers and created a furore in the media. How could a banana, which will rot, be worth a hundred and twenty thousand dollars? It was the idea itself that was valuable and the rights to duct tape a banana to the wall was bought by three different collectors.
Those who bought the banana received proof that they hold the rights. The art world is however, full of forgeries, up to half of the world’s art market may be fake. One renowned gallery in New York knowingly sold forgeries by Rothko, Pullok and de Kooning. The works were painted by a 75-year-old Chinese man, but were sold for about 33 million dollars. Until that were discovered, the works were recognized and brought great value to collectors. Afterwards they were worth nothing than the paint it was painted with. NFTs intend to solve this problem through blockchain technology. Here, ownership is verified through a chain of ownership that is stored on different servers. In this way, it is theoretically impossible to falsify the ownership and thus ensure that the work is real. However, these NFTs have become, like most traditional art, a commodity which are bought and sold for profit. The pixelated blue boy with a cap we see on the wall stayed on one time sold for a quarter of a billion Norwegian kroner.
Bankys has long expressed displeasure at how the art market has become so capitalist. He therefore put a shredder inside the frame of one of his most iconic works, just in case sold at auction. When it was sold at Sotheby’s for $1.4 million, it was immediately shredded. It created huge reactions in the art world and presumably made it even more valuable, both art historical and monetary.
Art can also have a societal value as a nation-building object. Tidemann and Gude’s “Brudeferden i Hardanger” helped to build our national feeling after we entered union with Sweden. Our own “For the love of fjords”, which incidentally contains the leading boat in the old national romantic painting, has a function as social criticism and should illuminate the Norwegians infatuation with one’s own country, which makes us unable to see that we are as much a nation of war as a peace nation.
Art can also have great value for the artist himself. Painting a picture or carving a sculpture can be a therapeutic process for processing painful traumas, as “sick girl” was for Munch. The work can also give comfort and be valuable to people who have experienced a similar situation today and in all foreseeable future. The pain is timeless and makes the work eternally relevant.
Like the Medici family, we at Guttestreker are both art collectors. There parts of the collection adorns the left wall. We are therefore interested in what makes us humans collect art. Could there be some survival mechanisms that have been inherited from the Stone Age that could be involved to describe why we behave this way?
Hoarding food was a way of survival and is also behavior we see in many animals. Now they have most of us, on the other hand, have enough food in both the fridge and at the local restaurants, so then we start maybe to horde other things? We have also hidden food from the others in the group, to secure our own survival. At the same time, the desire for the largest piece of meat is still a prominent feature of them most people. These traits may have increased the survival rate and therefore transferred to theirs descendants, who instead buy unique art today. At the same time, we want to decorate our nest, like this the peacock makes itself beautiful to attract a mate, so that we too can pass on our genes through new generations.
Since the Stone Age, art has been a large part of people’s lives. We have sung, danced, played on primitive instruments and painted cave walls, as well as carved in stone and wood and created intricately sculptures. It has shaped us as people and expressed concepts we have not been able to formulate. It has brought us together and created great discussions that have lifted our understanding of being human. Art is and will be valuable to us and we hope this little story has been inspiring and given value to your life
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