Painting a Picture of Art’s Pricey Paradox

It’s a problem when your bank account is a blank canvas

Hillary Bosch

F&L Co-Editor

I’m a Pinterest addict, always looking for new ways to spice up my apartment, wardrobe, or playlists. One theme that consistently comes up in my feed is how original artwork is the best way to tie together a home. As a dabbling painter in my free time, I often replicate or base my own paintings off works I see on Pinterest to decorate my cozy Walsh apartment. Painting, or making any form of art, is an incredibly fulfilling past time and the ultimate way to de-stress after a particularly difficult week of classes.

If I find a new style of painting I like, I’ll look up artists of that movement and attempt to recreate it on my own. Sometimes it looks passable, but most of the time it’s a complete failure and ends up getting painted over or turned into a test canvas. But rather than give up on the idea of that style decorating my home, I look to Etsy, Red Bubble, and other craft websites to see if there are any paintings available. However, even on these sites it’s difficult to find a quality piece of art under $50 or $75. While that’s cheap for the art market, it’s still a lot for a college student who refuses to pay more than $8 for a hamburger.

$2000, no lowballers.

So I find myself in a strange dilemma: I want to support other artists and encourage the creation of art via my credit card, but also I simply can’t afford to pay that much for something just to put on my wall. It’s difficult to say if the global art market has been growing or declining depending on what data you use. Last year, estimates for the global value of art sold was estimated to be between $45 billion, as calculated by the Tefaf market report, and $56.6 billion by Art Basel. The United States art market was in slight decline, but is still the main participant of the market, with 29.5% market share.

But those are a lot of big words and I’m not looking to buy an original Picasso, just something nice for my bedroom. We all know that the works of famous artists can go for several million dollars, but why is even Etsy so expensive?

Probably because artists are people too who are looking to make ends meet by working their hardest in their field. Just last week I spent upwards of 6 hours on a painting measuring only 2 inches by 7 inches. If I were to price this painting at minimum wage and include the cost of materials, that tiny canvas would cost approximately $81. It’s a completely appropriate way to price a painting, but $81 is ridiculous!

Artists deserve to be compensated for their work, and as creative people they throw their passion, emotions, and lives into each piece made by their hands. Visual art has an amazing and beautiful insight into the human experience that deserves every praise and respect. I support this wholeheartedly, yet that doesn’t mean I suddenly have $50 or $75 or $81 to spend on art when I need to think about groceries, rent, and, I’ll be honest, my weekend 4lokos. So both the artist and I are left in a state of lack—my wall remains empty, their art unsold, and us both wishing for a better system.

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