Art, Money, Value
By Daniel Icaza on January 22, 2012
I was recently asked if I would be willing to share some thoughts about why I do what I do and some of my ideas regarding art and money.
I am very happy and excited to do so, I just have a very hard time synthesizing my thoughts into coherent writing, particularly with this subject matter. After a little focused concentration, this is what I came up with… Enjoy! ;o)
What is “art” and what is “money”? And why do we value them?
There are many ways to look at the relationships between these ideas and I am simply thinking out loud here…
“Art” has many different definitions and I would argue that everyone has their own interpretation of what art is. Some definitions are very specific while others are incredibly vague.
The definition of “money” can be as specific or vague as the definition of “art” depending on the context and view point of the individual or group that defines it, and the time period in which they lived.
One of the most challenging factors in coming up with a specific and all inclusive definition for these concepts (art/money) is the fact that they are always changing and evolving into new representations.
The first “exchangeable goods” (aka: money) were stones, shells and beads; then came coins and paper, and now we have digital money which is in many ways intangible.
What exactly is “art”? Is it painting, sculpting, drawing, dancing, literature, or all of the techniques of creation which people often refer to as an art form; from cooking to science and technology or performances (which are similarly intangible)?
Everything is subjective. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
This is the first definition of “money” available from “dictionary.com“: ”any circulating medium of exchange, including coins, paper money, and demand deposits.”
I mention this definition because I find it to be rather good. It is nice and vague (just like art can be), leaves plenty of room for interpretation, and focuses on the action of exchange.
So, if the object which is exchanged is not the focus of the idea, does the money have value? Or is the value represented in the act of exchange?
As the concept of exchange has become more abstracted with digital banking and the exchange of information has come to represent “money”, I would argue that the concept of value is most definitely present in the act of exchange, and not so much in the physicality of the object.
After all, when we say “I wish I had more money” or “I wish I wasn’t so broke”, we are usually not desiring stacks and stacks of paper and metal or numbers on a computer screen, but what those objects represent in transformative potential.
For example, less stress from bills and work, a higher standard of living, better food, more leisure time, etc… The transformational potential of money is overwhelming and purely conceptual.
This is the core of money and why people value it. It is not the money/object itself which we value but what it can represent. The conceptual power of money is the real power of money, and that power will only go as far as people let it. If people lose faith in the concept, the “money” becomes “valueless”.
This is why traditional banking was based off of physical commodities such as gold and silver and not intangible hypothetical numbers. Numbers are infinite; the resources of our planet are not. This inherently gives mined minerals an immeasurable value do to the fact that there is a finite amount of them. That is why many of the “most valuable” objects humanity posses are often made of metal and/or stone.
I like to summarize this theory in the following way:
“Money = Concept + Faith” where money is an object that people value, the concept is the argument for why people value the object, and faith is the belief that people place on the concept.
For example: We value a one dollar bill (money/object) because we can exchange it for food, water, or other goods (concept) and we believe that some one will always want to exchange a dollar for another object (faith).
Art, in comparison to money, works in a strangely similar way and is so intertwined with “money” and “value” that it is almost impossible to see the blurry line that separates these ideas. After all, paper money is usually nothing more than a small landscape or portrait when you really think about it. But what makes one portrait or landscape more “”valuable” than another? Is it simply aesthetics, the person who created it, how old it is, how new it is, the materials it is made of, the size of the piece, the amount of detail, the amount of copies that were made; what is it that makes one object more valuable than another?
In many ways this relationship can be represented in the same way that money is valued.
“Art = Concept + Faith” Where art is an object that people value, the concept is the argument for why people value the object, and faith again is the belief that people place in the concept.
Here is another example for your contemplation: We value the cave paintings of Altamira, Spain (art/object) we value them because we consider them to be part of our human history (concept) and people believe that we can understand more about our past by preserving our history (faith).
The true measure of value in the relationship between art and money is concept and faith. If you believe the concept is valuable, then it is; and if that concept is embodied or manifest in an object then that object becomes valuable in turn.
If people stopped considering the caves in Altamira to be a site of valuable historic art, it would lose its’ value, the same logic is true with a dollar bill or any other “valuable” object for that matter. An object or concept is only as valuable as we make it.
I personally think that if more people were willing to focus on the faith behind the objects and the concepts that we value, we might better understand these relationships and humanity might be able to come together instead of drift apart.
In the end, I feel that both money and art are nothing more than concepts backed by faith. I find the most interesting aspects to be the concept and faith as these are the true motivators; the materialization (object), that represents the faith and concept, is not the true focus for me.
I hope you enjoyed this little window into my mind.
Until next time.
Peace and Love