Image: 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Art has never been an easy world to survive in. And now even artists who managed to make it big while the economy was good are seeing their careers decline. Damien Hirst, currently the world’s most successful artist, is said to have a fortune of about $400 million. But times are changing, and in the past few years even artists like Hirst have faced dimming prospects.

Art is worth money for a simple reason: because people believe it’s worth money. It might be beautiful or intriguing, thought provoking or unsettling. It sometimes makes people feel something, some emotion, and that’s often where the value starts. But from there, its value often grows based simply on the artist’s reputation. For example, a painting by Hirst might not be particularly appealing to someone except that it comes with his name attached; and because of that simple fact, they’re willing to pay thousands or even millions of dollars for it.

St Bartholomew Exquisite Pain

Even Damien Hirst, the most successful artist today, has seen dimming prospects.
Image: Ian Usher via Flickr CC

But these days, many are re-evaluating what pieces are really worth to them. They are asking themselves the question of why something has value, and they are finding fewer reasons to buy work purely for the price tag and the attached reputation. Now, more than ever, people are looking to art to inspire them, to connect to them, to move them.

Hirst, for example, has seen a mountainous decline in his career since 2008. He’s certainly still a big name, but these days his art isn’t selling like it used to: since 2009, over a third of his works have failed to sell at auctionand the value of his works between 2005 and 2008 have gone down by nearly 30 percent. Some speculate that this is due to a combination of the world’s new critical eye and Hirst’s own decline in making quality creations.


Image: Shutterstock

Does this mean the end of art? Definitely not. Does this mean it will never sell for money? Of course not. What it means is simply this: art will have to be worth something intrinsically to earn that big price tag. That doesn’t seem so bad—because, after all, isn’t that what art is already supposed to be about?