Friday, November 17, 2006

Applying Economics to Artistic Masterpieces

In Wednesday's NY Times, there is an article discussing whether there is a pattern to how works of art are priced. The article discusses the work of economist David Galenson who has found that great artists usually fall into one of two categories:

1. "Young Geniuses:" like Picasso, Van Gogh, or Gauguin, who create their most valuable works early in their career and are innovators who spend little time on their artwork.

2. "Old Masters:" like Jackson Pollock or Paul Cezanne, who create their most valuable works of art late in their career and spend a lot of time perfecting and experimenting with their artwork.

Galenson then uses these two categories to explain patterns in the creation of artwork and to predict the prices that the works of art will sell for.

One of the main topics of the article is how there is a lot of resistance to applying these economic and statistical techniques to the field of art. So my question would be, what do you think of Galenson's ideas? Is it an example of trying to bring everything under the economics/statistics umbrella without regard to whether it fits? Why do you think there is so much resistance to Galenson's work?


Anonymous said...

On of the things that caught my eye while reading the article was that art collecters, and artists pride themselves on not being able to define "great art". What David Galenson is trying to do, is to define why some art sells for much more than others. I could see some people having problems with this because every person will have a different view of art. While person A might think that a Picasso painting is worth $80 million, person B might find the same painting to not be worth $80. Bringing this type of demand into an economic point of view seems difficult seeing as it varies so much. Galenson's work seems to almost disregard some art by saying that there are only two categories in which paintings fall. Some people probably have a problem with classifying art this way.
-James c

Anonymous said...

I think his two categories for defining great artists are far too broad. All artists are either good at art to begin with or have to work on it a long time to become good at it. So all artists fall under these under these two categories. Given only these two categories, it is easy to find alot of exceptions and flaws to his theory. For example, some of Picasso's later stuff is still very famous and expensive (even though he is considered an innovator and a "young genius") there are other big exceptions too. Take rembrant for example, all of his early sketches have been snatched up by museums even though they were from before he became a great artist and perfected his work. I think it might be possible to apply economics to art, but i do not think this is article is right.
-jacob hormes