Why is abstract art so expensive? Explore the inherent value, quality and reputation of the artist that make this type of art so expensive.
I have recently written a detailed blog post about What Makes Art Valuable. However, in this article, I will focus on why abstract is so expensive, not what makes it valuable.
Several factors could influence the price of abstract art. I will highlight the following:
- The quality of the artwork
- The artist’s reputation
- The demand for the artwork
- The art world market condition
Something else is worth mentioning here. There is a difference between the value and the price of abstract art, which I will cover in this article, too.
For ease of reading, I have divided this blog post into the following sections:
- What is abstract art?
- The intrinsic value of abstract art
- What influences the price of abstract art?
- How much does abstract art sell for?
- Some of the most expensive abstract art
- Who are some of the most famous abstract artists?
- Final thoughts on why abstract art is so expensive
Please feel free to add your comments in the section below and let me know your thoughts about what makes abstract art so expensive.
What is abstract art?
Creating abstract art begins with the intention to create abstract art. Many people, including artists, argued, and perhaps still do, about the origin of abstract art. Did abstract art really begin in the late 19th century/early 20th century in Europe or could we consider other ancient art, such as Cave Paintings (40,000 years old) as abstract art?
The goal of abstract art is to portray thoughts, feelings, emotions and imagination through colour, shapes, lines and textures rather than to depict a real object. It is a type of art that invites viewers to add their interpretations, meanings and context.
Abstract art became one of the most well-known and cherished genres of artistic expression, particularly from the mid-1940s to the 1970s. Over the past 20 years or so, it’s become a popular type of art, again, that could be found in many homes, offices, hospitals, hotels and other public places.
If you want to find out more about abstract art definition and meaning, please have a look at this article: What is Abstract Art?
The intrinsic value of abstract art
The value of a piece of artwork refers to its intrinsic value. The price, on the other hand, is its monetary sum as a product or an item.
Intrinsic value is determined by certain criteria that are objectively quantifiable. These could be the conditions and reasons for creating the artwork. It could also be, to a certain degree, the amount of time and effort the artist put into creating it.
Price may be subjective, occasionally irrational and could be difficult to control. Many of us are inclined to believe that an artwork’s price may also represent its fundamental intrinsic value, too.
That could be true, sometimes.
If the value is the only criterion for evaluation, however, certain works of art are overvalued while others are undervalued. This suggests that an artwork’s price is not solely determined by the intrinsic value it contains.
Market-related criteria are also taken into consideration. Because it is subject to the economic law of supply and demand, art has a price, in most cases.
However, there is always an exception to that rule. That exception is called the Mona Lisa. There is no doubt that the Mona Lisa is the most famous, most valuable and most expensive painting in the world if it was ever priced.
As far as I know, the Mona Lisa was insured in 1962 for a value of $100 million. This is more than $867 million today. Obviously, the Mona Lisa is not an abstract painting, but I used it here just to give further explanation about the intrinsic value and the price of a piece of artwork.
There are other criteria to take into consideration connected with the intrinsic value of and why abstract art is so expensive. For example, its unique expression.
I always think that every abstract artwork is totally unique because it is created with the artist’s unique expression, emotions and vision.
Being unique and original, i.e. one of a kind can add greater value to a piece of abstract art, giving it an additional sense of exclusivity.
Museums and art collectors look closely at its potential long-term investment. Many artworks, including abstract art, may increase in value over time.
What influences the price of abstract art?
The art world has created a very complex system to evaluate and price any type of artwork. Abstract art is no exception to this rule. Several aspects affect the price of a piece of abstract art and I will mention the following:
The quality of the artwork
The price of an abstract artwork can be significantly influenced by its quality and the process used to create it. A piece that has been expertly constructed with considerable skill, technique and attention to detail typically costs more money.
You might be saying: What are the qualities of abstract art or what do I look for in good abstract art? I asked myself that particular question many times over the years.
I mentioned earlier that creating abstract art begins with the intention to create abstract art. It doesn’t happen haphazardly. Every abstract painting I make begins with the intention of making an abstract painting.
The subject of the painting is a different matter and I know many good artists create fantastic abstract paintings intuitively. And that is absolutely fine.
(However, I said it before and I will say it again. Creating intuitive art is different from creating art intuitively).
That intention to create abstract art could be evaluated by its quality. There are many studies have shown that people can distinguish between a painting created by a professional or by a non-professional artist.
Usually, I look for the following qualities:
Consistency, in my opinion, isn’t about using the same medium or the same subject. It is more about the way you reflect and present your expression. It is about your unique way to express your thoughts and feelings.
It is similar, in a way, to your unique handwriting. You write in a certain way and your art would be expressed in a certain way, too.
Many artists think that oil paintings should be more expensive than watercolours or acrylics. That might be the case because of the price of oil paints vs. watercolour and acrylic paints. Or perhaps because most of the old masters painted with oils.
Let’s remind ourselves that acrylic paints were invented in the 1950s. Watercolour blocks or cakes were invented by William Reeves in 1781.
However, oil paints began around the 7th century AD. Some of the oldest oil paintings were used by Buddhists in Asia.
Consistency in your brushstrokes, colour selections and more importantly the energy you could evoke through your paintings. Consistency in the main theme of each of your abstract artworks. Consistency in the technical mastery of your overall composition of the artwork.
Colour is probably the most powerful and attractive element in visual art, in my opinion. It is the first thing that you notice in almost any artwork.
Our lives are surrounded by colours all the time. Nature provides us with a complete wide range of beautiful colours. It is estimated that generally speaking, people can see about one million different colours and shades. That is amazing.
Designers and artists are experienced in the psychological effects of colours and their influence on our moods. Colour is a type of language that artists and designers use to tell us something. A message, a story, an idea, etc.
Understanding colour meaning and association also plays a big part in creating visual art. This is vital in the case of abstract art and, more specifically, non-representational art.
Non-representational art relies heavily on the vocabulary of colours.
Artists use colours for a variety of purposes. It could be to express their emotions and feelings as well as evoke the viewers’ emotional response.
The quality of colour in an abstract painting can reflect its value in the overall composition. For example, do all the colours create harmony and balance? And what about its rhythm, unity, emphasis and visual path?
These are some of the criteria to think about when you are looking at abstract art. You may say that you are not experienced enough in judging those elements. And I totally understand that.
However, look deeper inside and find out whether the colours evoke any emotional response.
The composition in abstract art or any other visual art is probably the most important component. The composition can make or break a piece of art.
I have written a lengthy article about composition in abstract art, which would give you a better insight into its importance.
Composition in abstract art distinguishes a good painting from a great painting. It differentiates whether it was made by a professional artist or a beginner artist.
Composition is the overall experience and knowledge of the artist in putting together all the elements and principles of art to create an outstanding composition.
Look at the paintings’ elements (colour, value, shape, form, line, texture and space) and how they are created and structured. Do they all complement one another?
Are they arranged in an effective way that projects movement, balance, unity, variety, rhythm, pattern, proportion and emphasis? These are known as the principles of abstract art.
Many people, including some artists, told me that they don’t necessarily stop to think clearly about those as they paint. I think, most artists do it consciously or unconsciously. The elements and principles of abstract art become an integral part of the creative experience.
Complexity in abstract art can give viewers a sense of mystery, confusion, excitement and even joy.
It stimulates additional investigation and analysis. It intrigues viewers to make new connections and interpretations.
An artwork’s complexity can provide depth and layers of significance, allowing viewers to have a unique experience each time they view it.
In abstract art, complexity also has a certain aesthetic value. It can be used to allow viewers to freely express their emotions.
While some viewers can be drawn to the challenge of finding meaning in the unfamiliar components of the artwork, others might value the complexity of the composition and find their own interpretation of beauty in the artwork’s complexity.
In abstract art, complexity can also be used to highlight particular elements of the work. It allows an artist to establish a focal point that stands out. And makes it simpler for viewers to recognise the artwork’s primary components and how they interact with each other.
Overall, complexity in abstract art can be used to produce one-of-a-kind, fascinating pieces of art that may captivate viewers and result in memorable experiences.
An artwork’s complexity can offer levels of depth and meaning, allowing viewers to examine and analyse it in various ways.
- Emotional response
I can appreciate that all of the above might sound way too complicated for many people who are looking for a simpler approach.
For that, I would suggest trusting your gut feelings. Do you feel comfortable with that painting? What emotions does it evoke? Does it resonate with you in any shape or form?
These are some of the questions to ask yourself when viewing a piece of abstract art.
There are several reasons people buy art and one of the main reasons is that art makes them feel something. Something special and personal to them.
Art can evoke a very powerful emotional response. Great art evokes an emotional response that stays with you long after seeing the artwork.
The next time you are looking at a painting, a photo or any image notice which one stops you and attracts your immediate attention. Ask yourself: What attracted your attention to that particular art?
The artist’s reputation
We all know that the value of a work of art is significantly influenced by the reputation of the artist.
An established artist is more likely to have their work appreciated highly because they have already made a name for themselves and their art.
This indicates that collectors are more likely to be interested in and willing to pay more for their artwork.
On the other hand, a new or unknown artist may not have as high of a value placed on their work.
The worth of an artist’s work is thus significantly influenced by their reputation.
The artist’s reputation concerning the price value of his/her work plays a vital role. However, this subject is so deep and I will summarise some of the contributing factors that could affect an artist’s reputation:
- Professional accomplishments: An important component of an artist’s reputation is their professional accomplishment, such as awards, exhibitions, and other achievements.
- Artistic style: An artist’s reputation can be significantly impacted by their artistic approach. The reputation of the artist in the art world can be impacted by the artist’s style, which might be conventional or modern, abstract or realistic.
- Critical reviews: The reputation of an artist can be made or broken by media reviews and other art critics. While unfavourable reviews can hurt an artist’s reputation, positive evaluations can help build it.
- Mass media: This has such a big influence on the artist’s reputation. So many artists became famous because of mass media coverage. We all know the power of mass media in creating fantastic opportunities for artists. Mass media can also work in the opposite direction and can negatively impact the artist’s reputation.
The demand for the artwork
Supply and demand usually affect the price of the art. Prices typically rise when demand is high, but they also frequently do so when supply is low.
This occurs as a result of the artwork being rarer and consequently more valuable due to its limited quantity. Additionally, pricing can be reduced when demand is low because there is less of a need for the artwork.
Artists and collectors are well aware of the value of art concerning the laws of supply and demand.
The art world market condition
The types of art that are in demand might also be influenced by market conditions. For example, when the economy is booming, buyers might be more inclined to acquire contemporary or modern-style artworks.
On the other side, buyers may be more inclined to buy traditional or vintage artwork when the economy is struggling.
The types of materials that are in demand might also be impacted by market conditions. For example, when the economy is booming, buyers might be more inclined to acquire artwork made with expensive materials.
On the other side, buyers might be more inclined to acquire artwork made from more reasonably priced materials during slow economic conditions.
The market conditions, therefore, can influence the types of artists that are in demand. As an example, when the economy is booming, buyers can be more inclined to buy pieces of art from well-established and recognisable artists.
On the other side, buyers might be more inclined to buy pieces of art from emerging or lesser-known artists when the economy is low.
I hope the above information gives you a better insight into why abstract art is expensive or, at least, some can be very expensive.
How much does abstract art sell for?
The price of abstract art varies greatly depending on several factors as I mentioned above. You can buy abstract paintings for a few pounds to millions of pounds.
The more expensive abstract art primarily attracts the attention and interest of museums and serious wealthy collectors. These pieces of artwork are seen as investment opportunities but also are admired and appreciated by many people.
You can still buy abstract art and enjoy it without necessarily spending thousands and thousands of pounds. The true value of abstract art is how it makes you feel.
Some of the most expensive abstract art
Here is a brief list of some of the most expensive abstract paintings:
- Leda and the Swan, 1962 by Cy Twombly, sold for $52 million in 2017.
- False Start, 1959 by Jasper John, sold for $80 million in 2006.
- Orange, Red, Yellow, 1961 by Mark Rothko, sold for $87 million in 2012.
- Dora Maar au Chat, 1941 by Pablo Picasso, sold for $95 million in 2006
- Anna’s Light, 1968 by Barnett Newman, sold for $105.7 million in 2013.
- No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock, sold for $140 million in 2006.
- No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red), 1951 by Mark Rothko, sold for $186 million in 2014.
- Number 17A, 1948 by Jackson Pollock, sold for $200 million in 2015.
- Interchange, 1955 by Willem de Kooning, sold for $300 million in 2015.
And here they are:
Who are some of the most famous abstract artists?
- Joan Mitchell (1925-1992)
- Lee Krasner (1908-1984)
- Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
- Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
- Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011)
- Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
- Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
- Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
- Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935)
- Franz Kline (1910-1962)
- Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
- Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
Final thoughts on why abstract art is so expensive
My whole website is dedicated to exploring the hidden true beauty of abstract art. Abstract art is a unique visual language that challenges the usual vocabulary of words.
It began over 100 years ago as a new challenge to the art world and continues to do so today. Its main challenges and its use of unfamiliar objects and subjects are mainly met by the rejection of the norm.
There is nothing normal or recognisable with abstract art because it communicates with the language of feelings. It is a new language for many of us.
It’s only those who appreciate this new language can appreciate it and appreciate why abstract art can be so expensive.
Abstract art addresses the very core of the freedom of self-expression. And I’m sure if you have that in mind when looking at an abstract painting, you will begin to appreciate its meaning.
A simple beauty I always see in abstract art is a good example of somebody who saw one of my abstract paintings and commented that “it looks like a burled wood grain”. That is amazing because when I made that painting I was more inspired by the sea breeze.
No two people will have the same interpretation of the same abstract painting. Each person may try to find what resonates with them, individually.
I can’t think of any other art genre that could have the same impact, except abstract art.
I hope this article provides more details about why abstract art is expensive. Is it because it uses the language of feelings? I wonder.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. I’m really interested to know.