How much is the Mona Lisa Worth?

buying art, kunst kopen
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, 1503.

Read this if you think about buying art.

We actually don’t know what the price of Da Vinci’s masterpiece is! The Louvre is not going to sell, so Mona Lisa hasn’t got a price on her head. She is priceless.

160 million

To give you an example of the price of Old Master paintings. The paintings of Marten and Oopjen by Rembrandt were bought in 2016 by the State of the Netherlands for a 160 million euros!

Once bought by a museum or a state, a master painting mostly does not return to the market. However, master paintings that do go under the hammer (for example a painting by Picasso or Van Gogh) can be sold for between a 100 and 300 million dollars.

So, art can be very, very expensive, but it does not have to. Read along if you want to know why the prices of artworks differ so much. And what you have to consider if you’d like to buy art yourself.

Why so expensive?

There are a couple of reasons. First of all, collecting art has always been a very serious business for the well-to-do.  Off course, noble landlords liked to decorate their houses as we do now, but collecting art for them meant the expansion of their knowledge too. A bit like building a library. Artworks received a mythical status.

The most famous art pieces, the ones that are living in the museum, were also given a political value. They became symbols of the nation. The Nachtwacht by Rembrandt, for example, is a symbol of the Dutch country.

Finally, in the first half of the 20th century, artworks became a safe and status-enhancing investment for American tycoons. Therefore, a speculative bubble started to surround the art market.

Today, now and then they still manage to create a hype around a living artist.  Their works of art become attractive for investors and completely unaffordable as a result. Artists like Banksy, Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons are the Kanye West’s and Beyonce’s of the art world. You know that art has reached its mythical status when it is shown in a museum.

If you are going to buy

Luckily, most artists are just hard working craftsmen that create beautiful or daring pieces and concepts. Their artworks are affordable! You might like to visit the Affordable Art Fair. Buying art of a non-famous artist is like purchasing a ticket for a local band instead of going to a big name in a stadium.

If you are considering buying a piece of art, these are the questions to consider:

  1. Is this design for the mass or is this a limited edition? If the prices still scare you, be aware of the fact that artists cannot profit from the benefits of scale, like for example Ikea. When you are prepared to pay more for organic, fair trade food, it makes sense that you would also pay a bit more for an artisanal, limited product. Photo’s and prints are usually less expensive than unique pieces like a drawing or a painting.
  2. What kind of Galerie or auction house is this? Do they aim for the higher segment (Sotheby’s) or the lower segment (your local Galerie)?
  3. What is it this artist is trying to say? Do we share the same vision?
  4. How do I estimate the artist? Is he respectable, a craftsman, a rebel, a genius, likable? Would I like him or her to continue the good work?
  5. What feeling does this artwork give me? Will I be able to look at it with pride? Am I going to show it to my friends? Am I going to pass it along to my children one day?