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Rasa Žukienė: Pricing Works of Art

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The economic aspect of art is as tough as it is in the rest of the financial sector. Whilst lecturing students, I had to search whether there was any rational and disinterested way of calculating the price of a work of art, rejecting everything that is love for art, emotions, affections and all other subjective matter.

The art world has its own ranking system in place as well as other various systems of evaluation and referencing. Art rankings are, firstly, based on opinions of the professionals, i.e. art historians and critics. Top places in the ranking system show the prestige of the artist, which he or she has acquired primarily amongst the professionals. After all, same as in other sectors, such as law or medicine, we demand the highest quality of service. In the art world, we should rely on the art experts in a broad sense, such as staff at art institutions, art critics, etc. I mentioned art institutions for a reason because the prestige of an institution is its art fund. In Lithuania, we don’t know which of our art institutions could be at the top of the ranking system. We also haven’t thought about creating a ranking system for the Baltic countries’ institutions, artists and the most expensive purchases. We come to ARTVILNIUS art fair every year and after we disperse. And those, which were the most important at the fair in the past are hardly ever remembered in the future. Thus the question is posed: does an artists’ life change after an award won at ARTVILNIUS art fair? In fact, probably, it does not, because this achievement is not recorded in any rankings.

A few of the well-known, prestigious and most important institutions, such as MoMa or Tate Modern are at the top of the world rankings. But which place in these rankings is assigned to the Eastern European institutions and artists? In the ranking systems I had to review, Prague’s Rudolfinum and Warsaw’s Zachęta are included. We definitely had artists, who exhibited at Warsaw’s Zachęta and this could be a real take-off place because this institution already has its value in international rankings. The ranking place of an artist can change according to various, sometimes even strange circumstances. For example, for the 70th anniversary of Georg Baselitz many galleries are organising his exhibitions and thus pushing him up the ranking system. However, if an artist cannot exhibit for a certain period of time, for example, due to an illness, his ranking goes down, although the artist is already established and well-known.

Pricing formula

Everybody is searching for a pricing formula, those, who are interested in Old Masters, museum staff and contemporary art experts. The formula, which I am going to present, I think, could be used across all art sectors. This formula is also suitable for calculating the value of museum objects. Objects that were donated to the museum’s collection, because for a long time these works did not have a price, the country’s currency has changed a few times and so on. Of course, the monetary value, calculated based on this formula, is only valid for that particular day and time and everything else depends on global economy laws.

There are two key component parts to this formula: the base value of a work of art (Bv) and specific valuation criteria.

The base value is used to calculate the monetary value (Euros) of materials used and the minimum working hours in the creation of the piece. The base value varies because the price of the materials changes and the technical complexity is varied for each piece. But, allowing some calculation errors, base value can be determined.

The formula is also made up of specific valuation criteria (KI – KVI) that can vary slightly depending on the type of art (painting, photography, contemporary art and other).

Another important criterion is the condition of the work of art (B), which can be divided into 4 levels: A (1-3 points), B (1-2 points), C (1-1,5 points), D (1 point).

When you have determined the work of art’s Bv, specific valuation criteria, its condition (B), then the work’s monetary value is calculated using the following formula:

Bv x (K I+K II+K III+K IV+K V+K VI) : B


Formula values:

Bv – the base value of a work of art.
K I, K II and so on – specific valuation criteria rate values.
B – the condition of a work of art.

Base value (Bv):

Painting 100-300 Eur
Graphic art 15-35 Eur
Photography and audiovisual works of art, depending on the type (early photographic techniques, analogue, digital photography, negative, audio or video material and so on) 1-120 Eur

Specific valuation criteria:

I. Authorship: recognition of schools, workshops, manufacturer, group, style

 Painting and graphic art 

 Photography and audiovisual works of art 

 K 16-25

 An artist is famous, a professional, renowned in his/her field, well-known nationally and/or internationally, has won numerous prestigious awards, his/her works are highly valued at auctions. An artist is a pioneer of a particular style/movement or one of its best-known representatives. His/her style is recognised and highly prized. Frequent publications, displays, use of his/her works in art research.*

 K 6-20

 An artist is renowned and famous, awarded as a leader in his/her field of work nationally or internationally.

The maker is renowned and famous, leader in his/her field of work nationally or internationally.*

 K 9-15

 An artist is a professional, well-known nationally and/or regionally, has won awards. The artist/school/workshop has an important place in art history. His/her style is recognised and highly popular. Often exhibited.*

 K 3-5

 An artist is a professional, a representative of photographic trade, a representative of applied photography. Artist, manufacturer is recognized and well-known regionally.*

 K 3-8

 An artist is a professional, well-known locally, regionally or in a slightly broader field. The artist is known within a general art history context. His/her style is not widely recognised. There are many works on the market and the artist is able to make more.

 K 1-2

 An artist is a professional, a representative of photographic trade or a high-level amateur/manufacturer well-known locally.*

 K 0-2

 An artist is an amateur or a professional, who has not been included in art history. The artist is unknown. His/her style is not widely recognised or valued. There is no knowledge of exhibitions, discussions or use in art research.

 K 0

 An artist is not a professional, an amateur. Artist/manufacturer is not well-known or does not stand out from the crowd.

*If the authorship or manufacturer are determined based on indirect information, a work of art is attributed to one of the first three categories with the lowest rate value. If the information is not reliable, a work of art is assigned to the fourth category.

II. Dating

Painting, graphic art (Fine Arts):
19th century – K 10-19;
20th century – K 2-9;
21st century – K 0-1.

Professional contemporary art (contemporary forms of painting and graphic art, three-dimensional object art: sculpture, textiles, photography, kinetic or light art), media arts (art film, computer art, media installation, photography, sound art), performance art (documentary, script):
20th century (1960’s until 2000’s) – K 7-15;
21st century (since 2000 until now) – K 0-6.

III. Uniqueness / rarity

Painting and graphic art

Photography and audiovisual works of art

K 10-20

Work of art that is internationally, nationally or regionally only and unique in its content, form or technique. A single known/surviving object of that particular type. One of the first works of art completed in a certain style, manner, genre, technique, a unique image. The artist’s works are rare or unique.
For graphic art: the first or one of the first limited edition numbers.

K 6-20

Low limited edition numbers or only a few surviving artworks of the same type. Artworks are rare internationally and nationally. The first work by the artist, one/few images/audio/video clips of the work and so on.

K 2-9

Work of art is rare, one of the known/surviving art objects or similar. Less common work of the artist/school/style in a certain context. Work rarely appearing on the art market.
For graphic art: numbers 10 to 15 in limited edition prints.

K 3-5

Works of art of regional significance, limited editions/numbers of the works of art. The images/audio/video clips of the work are rare.

K 0-1

Work of art is not unusual in its content, form or technique. There are many works surviving of a similar type. An object in the collection is part of a necessary background in order to highlight and reveal the features of the most valuable national and regional collections.
For graphic art: limited edition print numbers from 16 to 25 or higher.

K 1-2

Works of art of local significance, there are many artworks of the same type.

 

 

 

IV. Authenticity (photography and audiovisual works of art)

1. K 3-20. Authentic singular work of art, original artist’s print.
2. K 1-2. Authentic print.
3. K 0. Unauthentic, but valuable in content copy/print.

V. Memory/history/Lithuanian studies

Painting and graphic art

Photography and audiovisual works of art

K 10-15

Ownership or other relationship to a work of art is linked with an internationally or nationally well-known person/place/event/exhibition/object. Work of art is nationally important from a cultural, historical or political point of view, has won numerous prestigious awards. Work of art has significant links to Lithuanian studies and Lithuanian cultural heritage.

K 6-20

Identified content*. / International and national historical events, personalities are captured, work of art is linked to internationally and nationally well-known events, personalities. / Highly important Lithuanian study objects.

K 2-9

Work of art has a link with a regionally known person/place/event/exhibition or a less reliable relationship with a person/place/event in a wider context. Work of art is regionally important from a cultural or historical point of view. Work of art has links to Lithuanian studies and Lithuanian cultural heritage.

K 3-5

Identified content*. / Regional historical events and personalities are captured, work of art is linked to regionally known events, personalities. / Important Lithuanian study objects.

K 0-1

Work of art shows or is linked with a locally known person/place/event/exhibition. Memory links cannot be found, the source/collection/history of a work of art is unknown. Work of art has no links to Lithuanian studies or Lithuanian cultural heritage.

K 1-2

Identified content*. / Local historical events and personalities are captured, work of art is linked to locally known events, personalities. / Lithuanian study and non-Lithuanian cultural heritage objects, which have links with Lithuania.

* If the content is determined based on indirect information, a work of art is work of art is attributed to one of the three categories with the lowest rate value. If the information is not reliable, a work of art is rated 0.

VI. Artistic/cultural value

Painting and graphic art

Photography and audiovisual works of art

K 11-15

Work of art is distinguished by an established (or newly recognised) artistic, stylistic or aesthetic expression, its creative use of colour and composition, originality of its idea/concept and its realisation, innovative development of a certain tradition or novelty.

K 21-70

Works of art that have internationally and nationally recognised artistic value. Works are valued, have won a number of international and national awards.

K 3-10

Work of art is recognised nationally or regionally because of its content, form, technique or other factors. It is moderately important in the context of artist’s career. It has won a number of regional awards.

K 6-20

Works of art that have regionally recognised artistic value, are valued, have won a number of regional awards.

K 0-2

Work of art shows only a few artistic/aesthetic aspects of maturity, they are characterised as weak or are not at all evident. Work of art is not original or is uncharacteristic of the artist and his/her style. Work of art is important in local art history, has not won any awards.

K 2-5

Works of art that have independent artistic value.


Condition (B):

A – critical (in need of restoration), 1-3 points;
B – bad (in need of conservation or restoration), 1-2 points;
C – satisfactory, 1-1,5 points;
D – good, 1 point;


The text is based on a paper given by the art historian and critic Rasa Žukienė at a public discussion “Models of art pricing” (2016 06 11) initiated by “ART-CART” gallery.

Edited by Ana Čižauskienė

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