Art or Home Furnishings?
by Michelle Chin
of prices is much easier with handicrafts or home furnishings. Single, double,
queen and king-size bed sheets come in standard sizes and have standard
prices. According to Lenny Gottlieb, there should also be a standard price
for a medium-sized dog sculpture. But it doesn't work like this with original
works of art because of the difficulty of putting a price on the creative
process which involves different forms of "value" that are not
directly translatable into monetary terms. Otherwise, a smaller painting
by one artist would always cost less than a larger painting by another artist,
and that is not always the case. It is not even the case that a smaller
work on paper by an artist costs less than a larger work on canvas by the
very same artist. Works of art cannot be sold by the square metre, and they
cannot be sold by the kilogram - though interestingly, in Indonesia, both
size and weight may be important to some collectors and dealers. A European
artist who lives and works in Indonesia told me that recently his work had
been described as "too light" by a local art dealer. This artist
has been experimenting with alternative materials on which to paint, so
his new works do indeed weigh less than the same-sized work on canvas mounted
on a wooden stretcher. What surprised me was the fact that his paintings
with their fairly "heavy" subject matter could be deemed too "light"
in physical weight. Are Indonesian art collectors looking perhaps for works
which (whether light or heavy in subject matter) are actually heavy in their
Sometimes a painting may be the wrong colour, too "heavy" in subject matter, too "light" in weight, too small in size, or too big for a buyer's home. When I informed Lenny Gottlieb that size isn't everything, it seems that I was actually way off track. To many art collectors in Indonesia, size IS everything. A friend in Europe was asked by a Jakartan art collector if he could find her a painting by the 19th century Javanese painter Raden Saleh. His works do not come onto the market very often and are in tremendous demand, and therefore when they do become available, they fetch huge prices in the Indonesian art market. By chance there was a Raden Saleh painting available for purchase in Germany at the time so the details of size, subject matter and so forth were sent to the Jakartan collector. News came back very promptly that the painting was too small for her wall - she was looking for something huge!