Deep Thought Thursday: Should the value of art be compared to a jet?

Today's Deep Thought comes from the book I'm almost (still not!) finished reading, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson–page 216.

Thompson notes that Ron Lauder paid $135 million in 2006 for Gustav Klimt's painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. He the asks:

To put $135 million in context, that is the price of a fully equipped Boeing 787 Dreamliner, an aircraft capable of holding three hundred passengers. Does a masterpiece have the same value as a Dreamliner? Or, if you want, should a Dreamliner be compared to an outstanding Gustav Klimt?

What do you think?

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10 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Should the value of art be compared to a jet?”

  1. Anything is only worth what someone will pay for it. There will certainly be folk who don’t care about a Klimt but go mad over jets. The most money I have ever paid (other than a house) for anything was for a robot. 😉 I don’t think we can fairly compare subjective prices people put on items. There’s no guarantee with market forces that either the painting or the jet will have the same value in 12 months time. Part of me thinks the Klimt is worth more than the airliner. Part of me thinks not.

  2. I think the painting has a unique meaning and is worth what ever one would pay for the painting. Depending on how the person feels about the painting and how much one knows and have study the painting. Some paintings can be priceless. Leslye

  3. I would not say the painting should be compared to a jetliner, because jetliners can lose value one way or the other. With paintings it is lifetime of wear and tear, if one takes precaution and depending on the quality put into workmanship. Leslye

  4. I think comparing the value of a jet and this particular Klimt is a case of apples and oranges. The jet can potetially be reproduced and not one of a kind. The value of the Klimt, to some extent, is misunderstood because people’s experience of it is as a small, low-quality digital image on the internet. Having had the opportunity to see the painting in question with my own eyes a couple of years ago (I wrote about it here: ) would almost certainly change many people’s perception of the value. The production costs of the jet figure more greatly into its overall value. The value of the individual talent and vision and everything else (beyond the cost of materials) that go into the painting are more difficult to quantify.

  5. Yes, apples and oranges–and semantics. In this context, (as I read it)he is referring to dollars spent & using something (the jet) with the same price tag merely as a dollar comparison. One might argue that $135 million for the painting was a bargain, as it is a unique expression of creativity that will never be repeated—whereas the jet is a manufactured (mass produced)machine.

  6. I believe you are comparing apples to oranges. Since we are talking money here, the aircraft has an intrinsic value, the value of the metal from which it is made, etc. The paintings value is arbitrary, it is only worth what someone thinks it is worth and is willing to pay for it. As awful as this sounds, I would say, compare the value of a painting to the value of a baseball card.

  7. I’m more interested in questions like how many people could be fed with that amount of money. As an artist I would love to think someday my creative vision garnered the historical importance and value to “justify” this kind of investment. I don’t begrudge any artist who achieves that kind of status. Another orange I know, but conversely how many children could be saved from starvation and disease? Of them how many would grow up to be visionaries? sigh.

  8. Value is such an arbitrary word. Let’s look at it this way: 50 or 100 years from now, no one will care if that jet is still around, it will have outlived its usefulness. However, the Klimt will still be around, still be wowing people and enriching our lives. PS: I too think it’s madness to pay $135 million for a painting when so many could be helped by that money, but that’s our supply-and-demand system, and the person who bought it has the right to decide how to spend his money. That’s the freedom most of us are lucky enough to live with.

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