Is Art Expensive?


                While setting up the new Art and Soul Gallery at Spiceland Mall, someone asked me while looking at the paintings, “Is art expensive?” I am an artist myself but I have also strolled through business school and had a brief encounter with a degree in international political economy. Economics is a hobby of mine and I considered the question in light of all this. My inclination first is to establish a framework for what defines expensive. In Grenada, to import a new car originally costing $20,000USD or roughly $54,000EC will receive duty rate from 59% to 63% depending on the size. Your bill at this point is $85,860 if you were able to pay outright. If you are financing the vehicle at 5% for 3 years, you will be paying an additional $5423.04 in interest. With all expenses added you have a car worth $54,000EC that you paid an additional $37,283 to own. Cars depreciate on average 15% a year. That is expensive.  A recent pricenomics discusses the depreciation rate of cell phones. Regardless of price, (Lime’s upper end is at $2500EC) cell phones depreciate fast. A recent Priceonomics shows that on average, cell phones retain only a quarter of their value over 4 years. When you add in the expensive cell phone plans you end up with an expensive paper weight after a few years.

Recently I visited an exhibit of impressionist paintings at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The entire exhibit was composed of 73 paintings, all collected when the work was recently made and shortly thereafter. Sterling and Francine Clark were simply purchasing work they enjoyed, some for a fraction of the current value. Many of the pieces were purchased during the economic downturn of the Great Depression when art prices came down. Sound familiar? While many of the work would be considered priceless, the entire collection now could easily be valued in tens of millions if not hundreds of million US dollars. This increase in value is not rare and what is even more valuable in this situation is that the Clarks were not buying art in order to cash in on the value but they received a lifetime of pleasure and inspiration from the work which they have passed on to society as a gift.

It’s easy to shrug a story like this off as, “they were lucky to buy highly collectible work at a value”. If you asked the Clarks whether they thought art was expensive, I’m sure they would ask you to reframe your outlook. Here are a few facts about art: 1. Art retains its value and many times increases in value over the years 2. If you collect a certain artist that becomes highly collected in the future, the increase in value is greater. 3. Art that inspires you provides an endless supply of inspiration and enjoyment. 4. Art is a commodity that enhances the value of your living space. 5. Art is a prestigious gift and a valuable heirloom.

All of these facts about art being a reality, the question is how much would you invest in an endless supply of inspiration and beauty, an investment and a piece of work that can become a part of your family heritage? People pay a lot of money for things that they won’t have in a couple years and provides none of the same qualities as art. Expensive should be a word that is likened to throwing money into a hole to buy something that you will throw in the same hole in a couple years. The question to ask about art is, “Is art enriching?” – enriching on several levels of satisfaction including spiritual which is one of the highest needs to be satisfied. “Is art enriching” financially, even though it has some upfront costs the way it retains and increases in value is unparalleled in economics. Art will contribute to you and your family’s well-being in ways that other products cannot. So when people ask you, “Is art expensive?” pretend you didn’t hear the question smile and respond, “Yes, art is enriching”.


–          Asher Mains, artist, entrepreneur.

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