Russ pointed to this photo/print, which just set a world price record, 4.5 million dollars.
I wouldn't have thunk it. And I doubt the buyer really love the photo 4.5 million dollars' worth, it's surely speculation. "Duh", you may say, but I find it interesting that probably the whole business of fine art is being held up not by people actually like the art, but by speculators who are betting on what artist will escalate in value.
It's a bit heart-breaking to somebody who when he was young dreamed of living as a painter and really thought that people paid for something because they actually liked it.
Fine Art is different in this way from music and books and films because 1: it's not usually mass-produced, so it has to cost a lot for one picture. 2: Most people have quite limited wall space, so once that is filled, they rarely go "art shopping", and if they do, they usually go to the warehouse to find a $30 frame-poster combination that they like. And most people just don't have tens of thousands of dollars floating around just to throw at something they happen to like.
Oh, and 3: it's only a very, very tiny fraction of people who feel very strongly about visual art. For most, it's just something to stop the wall being bare, and it should match the sofa. I have a feeling that many more people feel strongly about music, if anything.
The problem as I see it is that when speculation is the driving economic force, it creates the odd factor that anything can become the deciding factor. Promotion and fame, for example, and infamy. For instance, rotting pig corpses will be sold as fine art for insane prices, when in a gallery in a side street 200 yards away, really lovely works hang unsold on the walls.
Sure, taste is a wide field, and nobody should be taste dictator. But if not for the speculation factor, I really doubt that any art lover would pay premium prices for rotting pigs, stuffed sharks, and cans of human shit.
But then occasionally you hear of an artist who is not famous but still sells all he makes for good prices. In fact my uncle and aunt are like that, for a hobby they make little statues of animals and faces in stone, and they sell like hotcakes. You don't hear about these people and I doubt anybody has made statistics, so I am kind of curious about how many people in the world are in this fortunate situation.