is there objective criteria that justifies why valuable art is valuable or is such art just valuable because the art world decides it is?


is there objective criteria that justifies why valuable art is valuable or is such art just valuable because the art world decides it is?

In: 8

All value is subjective, there is nothing that exists which is objectively valuable. In order for something to be valued there must be a mind which values it, and said mind can change its views. Food for example is often considered to be something which has intrinsic value but its value depends on there being creatures that need to eat in order to live, and that living is valued. However that is not an objective goal, there is no law of the universe saying that creatures should live.

So no, of course art is only valuable because the art world decides it is. It is the same with everything else in existence.

No, there are no objective criteria to value art.

Strictly speaking, *all* value is subjective but most goods have generally agreed and fairly tightly bound ranges for value that move relatively slowly. Like anything, art is worth whatever someone is willing to pay, but that can vary wildly and rapidly.

Okay some food tastes better than other food right?

Like, let’s pretend Bill and Gwen are bakers, and Bill is only somewhat talented, but Gwen is a generational genius with flour, sugar, etc. She has talent, insight, *and* training.

So they both make you a pie. Bill’s pie is… okay. He did his best, and he’s a nice guy, but it’s just kinda….okay.

Gwen’s pie, on the other hand, as soon as you take a bite, your mind is flooded with joy. It’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted.

Now, if you give 100 people both pies, 97 will probably prefer Gwen’s pie. But the other 3? They might prefer Bill’s. Why? Who knows. People have a right to their preferences.

Is Gwen’s pie better? Yes. It’s not a subjective statement. But the fact that 3 people might *prefer* Bill’s pie is them responding to their subjective preferences.

Back to art. By “art” I assume you mean the visual fine arts: painting, sculpture, drawing, and similar.

Whereas baking is meant to please the palate, the visual fine arts are meant to please the eyes. Some pieces are art are better rendered than others.

Why is some art so expensive? Supply and demand. There are only so many Monets in the world.

Objective means a fact that is independent of what people think. The value of art is absolutely based on what people think of it, so it can’t really be objective.

But there’s another word people don’t use as much “intersubjective”. When we say something is subjective, a lot of people think of it as arbitrary. But with intersubjectivity, we understand evaluations shared between minds.

So while art doesn’t have a singular objective value, there are intersubjective evaluations that are going to be shared widely within communities of people who buy art and who enjoy art.

Here are a few of the top intersubjective values that tend to factor into art values

1) A piece of art is (generally) a physical object. We can start with a formal analysis. When I say formal, I don’t mean you wear a tuxedo. In art evaluation “formal” means we’re talking about the form of the thing., The physical qualities. Is it big or small? Oil paint, cast bronze, silk tapestry? Is it damaged or whole?

All other things being equal, a whole large work made of expensive materials will be valued more than a small fragment of cheap material piece unless some other difference trumps the formal factors.

2) A piece of art is a piece of history. A baseball signed by Babe Ruth or a desk used by George Washington are valued more than a modern desk or new baseball that otherwise look the same. In the same way, a painting by someone who became famous and innovated the art form or a sculpture that was the first of it’s kind and set a new standard will be valued more than if an unknown artist made an identical object. People like to rag on art for attaching value to who made something, but art is not unique in this. Watch antiques roadshow.

3) Rarity. This is simple. All markets respond to supply levels. If an artist made a print edition of 5000 copies it would likely be worth less than the same print if only 5 were made (As always, all things being equal). And again this isn’t unique to art. The fewer of most things of value, the more the price goes up.


It’s mostly auctions and market to decide the value.

But there’s some justice based on: if you can say yes to the following questions, and how big of a yes is, then the value is little.

Can anyone do it?

Can someone do it better?

Had anyone the same idea before?

Isn’t it standing out of the mass?

Is it cheaply made?

Does it comes in many copies (prints, stencils etc)?

Last note, art must be seen first person most of the time. Out of my mind, Dalí and Fontana works got a different value in my mind once I saw them first person. Usually, a picture of art doesn’t capture how incredibly well made it is. And that makes sense. If a 2d picture is enough to give the same sensations, then the art piece has very little to say.