Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tainted Histories and Market Values

It appears that it is, in fact, possible for the value of an artwork to rise once it becomes the subject of a malevolent plot.  Referencing back to the blog entry on Patricia Cohen’s New York Times article “Mrs. Lincoln, I Presume? Well, as It Turns Out…”, posted on 2012-02-12, recent news in the art market once again raises the question, can it be that some people might find an artwork more desirable because of its “tainted” history?
The Independent’s Nick Clark reports that Edvard Munch’s The Scream is anticipated to sell for upwards of $80m at auction this spring.  While The Scream’s value is definitely attributed to its status as a “true icon” and to the fact that it is, as Sotheby’s suggests, perhaps second only to the Mona Lisa in terms of most recognizable artworks, we must also factor in its history of theft and recovery.  Munch painted four versions of The Scream, with his 1895 version going up for auction.  In 1994, the 1893 version was stolen from, then returned to, Norway’s National Gallery.  In 2004, the 1910 version of this artwork was stolen and it was not until 2006 that the work was recovered and returned to the Munch Museum in Oslo.  
Here, we explore the correlation between fame (in this case, acquired through high-profile art theft) and market value.  It appears that celebrity—beyond that of creative originality and aesthetic appeal—does correlate with market value.  The Scream’s “sketchy past” makes it a lucrative sale and certainly accounts for a least part of the $80m estimate.
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on

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