Opinion 3

Are you good with money? Yes, I thought so. We have to watch our pennies even more closely with inflation. However, it seems there are a few folks in the “art world” who have money to burn. No pun intended. 

When Banksy, the famous but anonymous British graffiti artist, sold his “Girl with the Balloon” piece at auction a few years back, it fetched $1.4 million. But wait, the moment the deal was done, the work of art self-destructed by unexpectedly lowering itself through a shredder that was secretly built into the bottom of the frame. Was anyone shocked or upset? In a rare display of “true art history,” the newly wrecked piece was retitled and then sold for a staggering $4 million. 

Oh, the joy of spending (wasting) money.

I know many artists. They are hard working and express their talents in ways that takes time and energy. They may sometimes struggle to make a living but keep going because of their desire to create and inspire. Art improves our lives. It gives us comfort, beauty, motivation and hope. We might find something familiar in a piece of art, reminiscent of a place or person from our past. Perhaps we feel our lives are made brighter by vivid colors in an abstract or thrilled by a landscape we get to enjoy hanging on our wall. Art and its price tag are personal. 

An artist named Jenn Haaning was paid $84,000 by a Danish Art Museum to reproduce two of his pieces. Haaning sent the museum a box that contained two empty frames. The “artwork” he sent is titled, “Take the Money and Run.” So, the two empty frames which contain blank canvases are on display in a museum. The feedback? People are standing and staring at a blank canvas “imagining” the possibilities. Lordy help us. Have the Danes lost their minds? The museum may ask for a refund, but the artist claims they got what they paid for. 

Art is in the eyes of the beholder. And we pay what we think it is worth. I had a friend in nursing school who had a big old bulldog named George. One day while she was painting a bedroom, George spilled the paint, stepped into it, and ran through the house. An artist was born. My friend had George step into paint and walk around on big canvases and would then sell the paintings at the local flea markets for a whopping $100 each. A lot of money back then. One of George’s paintings sold for $1,000 at the Ohio county fair. George became a local celebrity and helped my friend pay for her nursing school tuition. 

The relationship between money and art is both baffling and complicated. Art is the object of our imagination or the summary of our beliefs. The expression of our emotions in all its mystery and glory. Art has been said to mimic life — as in a blank canvas waiting for our brushstrokes to “make the picture.” Like a dog named George, art is for each of us to create and enjoy. Expensive? Maybe. But always priceless. 

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com