The Price of Everything: How money takes over the art world

Art is something that is essential to human life. Art is about creativity. It is an expression of our thoughts, emotions, intuitions, and desires. A representation of our conceptual and imaginative thoughts.

If you follow the art scene, you hear that a painting by Picasso recently sold at London auction for a record $189 million.

Nathaniel Kahn’s documentary featuring Nigeria’s Njideka Akunyili Crosby, The Price of Everything explores the roles of art and artistic passion in today’s money-driven, consumer-based society exposing deep contradictions as it holds a mirror up to contemporary values and times.

It is about how the art world got taken over by money. It’s a telling tale about the current boom market for contemporary art.

Filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn interviewd by NPR narrates,

I grew up in a family of artists. And I have two sisters who are artists, my father was an artist, my mother is an artist, I have an uncle and aunt who are artists, a cousin who’s an artist. And from being a little boy, I saw the struggle between art and money. And it always seemed like such a weird relationship. And this film offered an opportunity to explore that.

“Sure, well, there’s always been a connection between art and money from the beginning. It was true in the Renaissance, I’m sure it was true in the Classical period. It’s been true throughout history — there have been patrons, and artists need to live, and they want to sell their work. But in the last couple of decades, we’ve just seen this explosion of the commodification of art, where art is being traded like a stock, like an asset, and art is even seen as an financial instrument. And to me, that’s fascinating, but it’s also terrifying. So something that’s fascinating and terrifying makes for a good subject for a film.

“The reason I wanted to make this film was to remind everyone, to remind all of us, that ultimately, art is something that is essential to human life. We can’t do without it. And so ultimately, art will prevail. We’re living in a time right now where everything is commodified, and it’s really scary, because there’s way too much money in the hands of way too few. And art has become a little bit of a pawn in that game”

Abstract artist Larry Poons is enjoying a late-career resurgence of interest, decades after his optical dot paintings attracted acclaim in the 1960s. Poons is a key figure in the documentary The Price of Everything.
HBO Documentary Films