I recently watched the auction of Picasso’s The Women of Algiers live from New York. After some spirited bidding it went for a record price of $160 million US dollars. One Hundred and Sixty Million Dollars!
Now I would always be one of the first people to defend the worth of artists and their contribution to society but it made me wonder.
How do we value creativity? How do we value a person’s work? How do we value anything?
I will never forget the first time I stood in front of a Renoir painting and was completely captured and absorbed by its luminescence. It was truly one of those WOW moments in life. But how to place a dollar value on that?
Back to the price paid for the Picasso. A staggering amount of money for a painting.
What else could be done with that money?
What difference could that make to a school system? A hospital? A struggling or developing community?
What could be achieved by feeding it back into the arts? Music education? Community art programs? Art therapy?
Pop culture excluded, exorbitant prices rarely go to the artists themselves or even to their descendants. The money exchange is between investment funds, outrageously wealthy individuals and sometimes art institutions. The value judgement being made occurs long after the particular creative work came into being and usually after someone else has demonstrated a willingness to pay. In other words its almost like a competition. Someone else values this, so I must value it more so I can capture it.
As a society we often have inconsistent ways of valuing the contribution that people make to society.
Why is the work of a marketing manager selling us products we don’t need worth more than a kindergarten teacher who plays such a vital role in shaping our young people?
Why are we prepared to spend our hard earned dollars on those products we don’t need but baulk at the higher price of organic food?
I’ve seen people scrimp on groceries, feeding their children the cheapest, most nutrient-void possible bread for their school lunches but not blink at paying $10,000 for a new BBQ. Of course I’ve seen the opposite too – people going without all sorts of things for themselves in order to pay for something they really wanted for their child.
I guess in the end it comes down to our values. What we value in life. But how do we put a price on that?
Getting clear on your values is key. What is truly important in your life?
Be explicit. Write down what you value most. Check in with those values regularly.
When making a decision or choosing a course of action, ask yourself, “Is this consistent with my values?”
Get clear on your core desired feelings. Rather than “What do I want to achieve in life?” ask yourself “How do I want to feel?”
“Will this help me to feel how I want to feel?”
There’s no easy answer and you can’t control what other people value (and in most instances, you shouldn’t) but you can get a lot clearer on what you value in life and act in a way that is consistent with and supportive of those values.
How do you determine what things are worth in your life? How do you determine value?
Linking up with Inner Compass Designs for The Creativity Tree