The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

DROWN by Njideka Akunyili Crosby

The primary connection that I caught onto between HBO’s The Price of Everything and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is the effect that the economy and upper class have on what we view to be art. According to Berger the minority ruling class hold a great deal of power over what the majority get to see in the art world and they use this power as a tool for oppression to deprive us of our relationship with history. The Price of Everything gives us an inside look at just how strong the value of art is determined by its price. If the dollar value of an art piece has become the main focal point of determining it’s overall greatness, then those who are buying (the minority upperclass) have the biggest say in what is considered to be art.

Jeff and Llona by Jeff Koons

Should art be held ethically accountable? Considering that art is essential to each culture’s identity and expression I would say that it should absolutely be held ethically accountable. Today art presents itself in many ways such as music, film, sculpture, literature, video games and much more. The effect that all of these art forms have on how individuals in a society come to form opinions on right and wrong, good and bad, gender, race, sex, etc… is powerful. With power comes responsibility. Art should be held accountable for its massive influence and how that influence is being used.

To what extent should art and capital be encouraged to co-mingle? Capital has way too strong of an influence on the value of art. The idea that the best artist is the one who makes the most money seems to be a very shallow take on something that deserves much more depth . I think the overall value of art should be determined by its emotional and lasting impact on those experiencing it, followed by many other more important assets than just its price. M. Night Shyamalan’s live action Avatar film, The Last Airbender, cost millions to make and was one of the highest grossing films at the time of its release, but is widely considered by the majority to be one of the worst movies of all time. Money doesn’t always equate to value.

Marilyn Minter

I unfortunately agree that the economy has a heavy influence on art and that the current art that is being produced is largely impacted by the minority ruling class, since they are the ones determining its value. Considering that this ruling class is the minority the art being released will not accurately reflect the majority, yet it still holds a powerful impact on how society, as a whole, forms opinions on and view the world around us. Our perception of reality is skewed in favor of how those in power desire it to be presented. As long as the value of art is determined by wealth the representation of the majority will be oppressed in its depiction.



  1. alexarushnova says:

    As you wrote, “I think the overall value of art should be determined by its emotional and lasting impact on those experiencing it, followed by many other more important assets than just its price.” I must agree because money is not the number one factor in feeling while the artist is creating their craft. They feel something so incredible that keeps them going. It’s their passion that makes the work and isn’t the price tag at the end.


  2. Dalton Ferguson says:

    Hey, great and very thorough commentary here on the current art ecosystem. Given these held views on the way things are, do you think you’ll be contributing to it willingly in the future as an artist?


    1. zeldalov364 says:

      I think it would be detrimental for an artist to stop creating. To quote Nietzsche, life needs art to be justified. Life sucks, but experiencing art and having some sort of artistic outlet makes it suck a little less. I don’t really know if there is a possible solution to the economic corruption at hand, but due to a certain level of dependency that I, and many others, have on art I cant imagine ceasing to appreciate, consume, and create it.


  3. anyecolbert says:

    This was a great post, I definitely agreed with your opinion on how art should be held ethically accountable.


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