Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Economics and Art History

I'm currently reading Sassoon's Becoming Mona Lisa, a book about how Leonado Da Vinci's most famous painting became... well... his most famous painting, and likely the most famous painting in the world. Aside from the art history component of the Mona Lisa's story, there's a fair amount on the economics of art, production, and re-production:

The unique work of art is, by definition, in a position of monopoly. There is after all, only one Mona Lisa; there will never be another one. In a world dominated by reproducible commodities whose value plummet as technology lowers production costs and makes them available to an ever expanding mass of consumers, to be the “one and only” becomes a major selling point. For this to happen, it is necessary that the producer should be exceptional; better still, a certified artistic genius. A painting by an unaccredited artists, an amateur, someone not previously authenticated, is of little or no met value. Past masters have the advantage over their contemporary rivals of having had their fame repeatedly endorsed by a succession of arbiters of taste. ...

It is, of course, a tautological circle. A museum masterpiece can only have been painted by an established master; an established master is ones whose works are to be found in a major museum. (p. 78)

No comments: