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Should artworks be valued at millions of dollars?

Some would argue that you can’t put a price on art - that it is priceless. But in recent years, the international art market has witnessed works of art being purchased for tens of millions, even hundreds of millions, of dollars. Simultaneously, the market for cheap forgeries has continued to grow. Why are people willing to pay so much money for certain sculptures or paintings and not others? And is it ethical to spend so much money on art? In other words, what is the value of art?


Why China’s art market is evolving from knockoffs to new works

Baltimore Museum Says Goodbye Warhol, Hello Younger, More Diverse Collection

Record-Setting Sale Of An Ancient Assyrian Stone Relief Sparks Looting Fears In Iraq

Additional resources to think about

Opinion: This Art is Bananas
Would you pay $120,000 for a banana duct taped to a wall? NPR's Scott Simon talks about the controversial artwork.

Jeff Koons Reclaims the Throne as World's Most Expensive Living Artist
Learn about the highest selling work of art by a living artist.

$1.3m Banksy Artwork "Self-Destructs" at Auction
The notoriously mischievous artist known as Banksy shocked art collectors when one of his newly purchased artworks suddenly began to self-destruct in front of their eyes, prompting questions about the relationship of money to art.

New York Judge Awards $6.7 Million to 21 Graffiti Artists For Destroyed Murals
Learn why a judge valued a series of graffiti murals in New York as worth millions of dollars when the medium is typically undervalued.

How Much Is Your Object Worth? - Researching Your Art
Explore a guide from the Smithsonian American Art Museum on how to determine the price of an art object.

Why Do Corporations Buy Art?
The Art Assignment explores art purchases by corporations and what impact they can have on the rest of the art world.


Who created this message?

  • What kind of “text” is it?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?


What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

  • What do you notice (about the way the message is constructed)? 
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • What makes it seem “real?”
  • What's the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used?

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • How many other interpretations could there be?
  • How could we hear about them?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • What type of person is the reader/watcher/listener invited to identify with?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out?
  • How would you find what’s missing?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?


Why is this message being sent?

  • What's being sold in this message? What's being told? 
  • Who is served by or  benefits from the message
    – the public?
    – private interests?
    – individuals?
    – institutions?

5 Key Questions of Media Literacy used with permission from the Center for Media Literacy.
Copyright 2002-2021, Center for Media Literacy,


Should artworks be valued at millions of dollars?

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