Eva Knott 9:36 a.m., May 23
An Expression of the Inexpressible
Some black. A swath of red. A pair of diabolical eyes framed by a monstrous face. A mouth tearing into his son's flesh.
Nearing death the Spanish painter Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes works on one of his last paintings. And he does it on his living room wall. A few more brush strokes and we've got “Saturn Devouring His Son.”
The 1820 (approx.) painting that hangs in the Spanish Museo del Prado is regarded as some of Goya's best work and an achievement in the burgeoning Modern style. His paintings have sold for millions.
But why Goya? What makes his paintings worthy of museums and seven figure checks? And why should young artists care about how pieces are priced? Isn't art above the almighty dollar? Aren't young artists where it's at? Shouldn't creating art be what all people are concerned with?
Well, yes and no.
“Art pricing in the Goya type stratosphere is based more closely with recognizable names rather than the emotions they elicit,” said Vanessa Cruz, an SDSU graduate student. “For relatively new and unknown artists, the responsibility of pricing art often falls on the artist and not the auction house.”
In auction houses the buyer determines what they are willing to pay. The artist has no input and has often been dead for decades.
For young artists commercialization is a difficult subject.
“Once I finish a painting or sculpture I have to decide how to price it,” said Nathan Bockelman, a graduate of UC Riverside and sculptor. “The gallery charges fees, I have materials, rent, bills, a car payment, and time invested. Hanging a price tag on my work has to reflect that, and I have to eat.”
The economic recession in the past few years has affected present-day artists more profoundly than the classics, whose value remains dependable. Newer artists who found their prices inflated before the downturn have had to reconsider.
“The uncertainty of what art is worth is much more pronounced in the contemporary art market,” said Ed Winkleman from Winkleman Gallery, in Chelsea, New York.
Unknown artists have to decide what their unknown work is worth. And without Goya type notoriety it is difficult to price feelings and emotion on a canvas. For others price hasn't become an issue.
“I've never had to price anything yet,” said Jacob Lopez, a Palomar college student. “If I did I wouldn't care, you can't rip somebody off with your art. It's not a TV.”
It is difficult to disagree. A TV's price doesn't fluctuate much based on the buyer. Meanwhile art's value (in the unrecognized artists' market) is based on how something strikes the viewer - how expertly it cracks open the mind and touches it to the void.
There are no easy answers in art. Whether you're unemployable and flinging paint around like Jackson Pollock in your rented garage, or have your work up for auction at Christie's, adding a price tag only complicates things.
What is certain is that art's cosmic and metaphysical value to humanity is profound. It expresses something that can't be verbalized or put onto a greeting card. It pushes the collective high-water mark of our faculties beyond the formulaic. Tripling and then trillioning our awareness of what it means to feel.
Now quantify those feelings accurately with a price tag. How many zeros do you use?
In the art field there are more questions than sound answers.
Rocco Versaci, a Palomar college art professor via email laid it out pretty well.
“Who really knows why something resonates?”