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Value of Art - what is art?

How much is art worth? And what defines its worth? I’m asking you these questions because I want to ask deeper ones.

Here’s something to think about. In October 2018, a group of well-heeled art connoisseurs gathered at Sotheby’s auction house in London. A highlight of the auction was a painting by anonymous street artist known as Banksy. The work was “Girl With Balloon”. The auctioneer finally dropped his gavel to sell the painting for $1.4 million.

As soon as he did, a device mounted in the frame began to shred the painting. The shredding stopped halfway. You had a piece of art that is half shredded, half not. What do you think happened to its value? It was valuable before. Now, it was priceless. But how could something damaged be priceless?

This brings me back to my questions. What is art worth? And why is it worth that? It’s because we – the people – create the value of art. We decide what we pay for it. By paying for it, by admiring it, by creating demand for it, we make it valuable.

So what does that mean in the real world?

It’s simple: We give art its value by consuming it, paying for it and appreciating it. Art relies on us for its value.

This isn’t a criticism of art. It’s a very a positive thought. We create art and decide its value collectively. And that means we can shape it and create it. Because what is art, really? It’s a form of shared communication and an expression of shared ideas.

So, now let’s take this further. As Emiratis, it’s time to move beyond being appreciators of art, and actually start creating it. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is full of glorious pieces of expression. Why can’t we match that?

We can. Our art doesn’t have to be traditional. It doesn’t need canvas. It may not even require paint. Whatever the medium, Emirati ideas and aesthetics can be shared with the world. We can take tradition and hurl it into the face of the future, and create beauty out of what emerges from that collision.

We can create in any medium we choose – technology, scent, food, supercars, watches, skyscrapers – however we want to express ourselves.

And remember, our appreciation determines the value of creation. So this is the deep question: if what you consume is only valuable because you appreciate it, what then will you choose to appreciate?

Why not create, and then appreciate what we create and so give it value? For a very long time, the people of the world have been kind enough to show us their ideas and stories. It’s now time to give back, and show them ours. When we value and treat with pride what we create, so will the world.


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