But I just ran across this, which I think puts it all in perspective. The super-rich are ruining art for the rest of us? The piece begins:
If you can believe all the hand-wringing and soul-searching these days among artists, art critics, and sundry other arts professionals, you’d imagine that nobody is really happy about the $142.4 million paid for a Francis Bacon triptych at Christie’s the other day—or the $58.4 million for a Jeff Koons at the same auction or the $104.5 million for a Warhol at Sotheby’s the following night. Those prices are as repellent as Leonardo DiCaprio’s baronial frat house shenanigans in the coming attractions for Martin Scorsese’s new tale of Gilded Age excess, The Wolf of Wall Street. Among the most revolting sports favored by the super-rich is the devaluation of any reasonable sense of value. At Christie’s and Sotheby’s some of the wealthiest members of society, the people who can’t believe in anything until it’s been monetized, are trashing one of our last hopes for transcendence. They don’t know the difference between avidity and avarice. Why drink an excellent $30 or $50 bottle of wine when you can pour a $500 or $1000 bottle down your throat? Why buy a magnificent $20,000 or $1 million painting when you can spend $50 or $100 million and really impress friends and enemies alike?Well, if this is an actual problem and not just a desperate attempt to find something--anything--to write about, then we in the classical music world can heave a sigh of relief. At least the super-rich are not destroying OUR hopes for transcendence! I just purchased the complete symphonies of Haydn for less than $23 from Amazon and I am eyeing the complete Mozart for a little over $100. I can attend a fine concert of chamber music for $20 or less. I can purchase the score to the complete string quartets of Beethoven for a mere $5.99.
Now you can either bewail that these low prices indicate that our society is destroying classical music by valuing it too low, or you can bewail that the prices from the article I quoted above indicate that our society is destroying the visual arts by valuing them too high. But it has to be either one or the other, doesn't it?
This reminds me of the current hot debate about inequality in society. And again, it is economic inequality. This is seen to be a Bad Thing. But my view is that if someone made a lot of money by giving a lot of people just what they wanted, then I have no problem at all with that. Steve Jobs is a good example. Didn't he earn his money by creating and selling a product that a lot of people really wanted? On the other end of the scale, a Franciscan friar takes a vow of poverty in fidelity to the rule of St. Francis. Surely this is not something we want to criticize either? So all that debate should really be about injustice and not just unequal numbers.
Perhaps we could just accept that there are other values than monetary ones. I'm sure we would all be a LOT happier. What's the real "value" of Haydn's Symphony No. 43?