Sometimes beauty beats value

In an old blog post I wrote about the perceived value of value. The conclusion of my musing was that hard value doesn’t exist. In business and in sales, value is in the perception of the beholder. It’s a subjective concept that lies squarely in the minds of your customers and it’s always related to the context of their business, working or living environments.

Though the premises and the context are different, the same is often true in the world of art. I can get a ‘beautiful’ painting by an unknown artist for little or no money at a flea market, while an ‘ugly’ picture by a famous painter would be auctioned at Sotheby’s for a ridiculous high price.

But sometimes beauty may trump monetary value. The  S.M.A.K. museum in Ghent, Belgium currently runs an exhibition, “No-Go Over 18”, at which contemporary artists (also some very famous ones, like Luc Tuymans) exhibit their lithographs. What’s so interesting about the initiative, however, is that admission to the museum is exclusively restricted to a young audience of under 18; ‘old’ people like me aren’t welcome. And that these youngsters can buy one or more prints at the affordable price of 45 euros each.

When making a purchase, the young art lovers won’t be influenced by adults. They won’t know the names of the artists. Or the market value of the pictures. They will make a choice based upon the artworks’ aesthetic appeal rather than on the creators’ reputation and his or her perceived market value. They will prioritize beauty over value. And only when they receive the litho in their mailbox after the exhibition, these kids – as well as their sponsoring parents – will find out who made the work they purchased. And if they possibly made a bargain investment.

It is said that real art is priceless and that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. I’m sure those young collectors will agree…