The Ethics of the Art Market

The art market is currently booming. Last November the record for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction was shattered by Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” selling for $450.3 Million. However increasingly many of these great works of art go right into storage as their buyers see them as sound investments that will appreciate in value rather than masterpieces to be appreciated for their beauty. Although many great works of art hang in private collections, at least they are gazed upon by some humans, which leads to the question, does putting art in a box as in investment defeat the point of the art?

And what about the artists? How should they feel about their life’s work going unappreciated in a warehouse somewhere? Yet one may argue that art being seen as also an investment opportunity brings more money to artists and enables more artists to make a living. To complicate things even further, often those paying big dollars for pieces of artwork did not come by their money in very ethical ways and art provides a convenient way for them to launder their money. Should artists consider these issues when selling their work?

Is it immoral for art masterpieces to go unappreciated? Should we regulate the art market to prevent this and other issues? Should artists consider to who and how sell their work? The answer to these questions seems to depend on the answer to the more general question: what is the purpose of the art anyway?