|The Value of Beauty is in the Statistical Model of the Beholder|
|Topic||Labor Markets ; Utility and Consumer Choice|
|Key Words||art, productivity, age, price.|
|News Story||What makes a painting by Gustav Klimt worth $88 million? A later Cezanne worth $37 million, but an early Cezanne for only $1.1 million? Usually those differences get chalked up to that aphorism about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. But an economist at the University of Chicago think that the value of the beauty can be statistically modeled.
Most people can't tell you what "great art" is, but they can tell you when they see it. But an economist at the University of Chicago who had researched age and productivity thought that it could be quantified much more thoroughly than that. Aiming for a "unifying theory" of art, he suggested that the value of a work could be based on the painter's productivity throughout his life. For example, someone like Cezanne, who did works over and over again, would be more productive later in life. Therefore, his later paintings should be much more valuable than the earlier pieces. Some people, however, did their best work earlier in life. Those people, like Andy Warhol, would see their earlier work valued more highly than their later work.
This theory has been criticized by many for applying statistical analysis to the one discipline least likely to be quantified. And they argue that it doesn't explain everything in art. This theory doesn't, to be sure. Every model will have its outliers. But for those who want to have a better idea if the painting they like is really worth the $30 million asking price, some statistical analysis may really help.
|Source||Leonhardt, David. "The Art of Pricing Great Art." New York Times, November 15, 2006.|
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