South-Western College Publishing - Economics  
Don’t Judge a Piece of Art (Solely) by Its Frame
Topic Utility and Consumer Choice
Key Words price, utility, choice, budget
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Reference ID: A146593095
News Story

Imagine that you have purchased a work of art, for what you believe to be a really good price. Now imagine that you hate the frame. It’s not original, doesn’t have that “special something” that makes the picture stand out. Is the picture really worth the price you paid if you hate the frame?

You decide that it is, and you hang it up on your wall. But every time you walk by it, you see the frame, and are reminded about much you hate that dusty, ratty frame. You really don’t want anyone to see the piece of art in your house, because you don’t want them to think that you actually like that horrible frame enough to have it on your wall.

You look around for the perfect frame – you know what you have in mind, but new framing will be very expensive. You look online, but don’t see anything you like. You visit framing galleries, but will be told that what you want will cost in excess of $2,000. $2000! For a frame???

You finally find it: that perfect frame. This frame makes all of the colors in your beloved piece of art to “pop”—the frame that was meant for your picture. And it only costs $400. And you become a believer in the words of G.K. Chesterton: “The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”

Questions
1.

What happens to your indifference curves when buying a frame like this for the picture?

2. The title of the original article is “Art’s marginal cost.” What is the marginal cost to which the author refers, and why is it marginal?
3. Imagine that you inherit a beautiful piece of needlework from your grandmother. Does this same “Art’s marginal cost” argument apply if the frame, while undamaged, is no longer in style?
Source Rozhon, Tracie. “Art’s Marginal Cost: The Ideal Frame.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com. June 4, 2006.
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