Van Gogh’s Irises Sells for $53.9 Million (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: Vincent van Gogh’s Irises sold for $53.9 million at a New York auction, shocking the art world and reflecting economic changes that led to the use of art as a commodity traded by the rich.
Summary of Event
Like the stock market, the price of art began rising during the mid-1980’s, reaching levels it had never reached before. Art became an investment, more prestigious than pork futures but, for many buyers, having the same ultimate reward--making money. Prices began to soar around 1983, with a few Renaissance and early modern paintings selling for around $10 million, but prices truly skyrocketed after changes were made in the United States tax code in 1986.
After the changes, U.S. citizens donating art to museums were allowed to deduct only the price paid for a work of art from their taxes, rather than the work’s current market value. This removed much of the incentive for art donations, and with art prices moving higher, many higher-quality paintings that would previously have been donated were put on the auction block, driving prices higher still.
Stock markets around the world were reaching new record levels, and many of the newly wealthy put some of their money into art. Record prices for art were set regularly. Vincent van Gogh’s Bridge of Trinquetaille sold for $20.2 million in early 1987. Just a few months later, that artist’s Sunflowers went...
(The entire section is 2291 words.)
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