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How art is an unaffordable luxury?

(Note: Here the point is to prove that “art is an unaffordable luxury”, not to discuss whether it is unaffordable or not?)

Needless to say, artworks like paintings, sculptures, crafts, and so on are expensive. But are they really unaffordable? The answer depends. The aristocratic families can easily afford art objects to buy and use them in their houses but what about the majority of the middle-class people? In most of the circumstances, the valuable pieces of arts are simply unaffordable to them.

The arts of high (or sometimes, historical) importance are sold in an auction to the highest bidders who are ready to pay many times their normal price or the price based upon their cost of creation. Thus, such objects become unaffordable to anyone who cannot pay more than the price that the highest bidder is willing to pay. Only one among the hundreds of people gets to enjoy that luxury.

Since art is an aesthetic object made by the creative skills of an artist, there is no fixed rule so as to limit or regulate the price of the art object. Although the cost of objects or materials used in arts can be calculated, the value added by the artist is difficult to work out since art is an intellectual property of the creator. Therefore, its price is the amount charged by the artist in his or her sole discretion.

Limiting the price that an art object is charged, reduces the incentive for the artists to keep on creating artworks. Moreover, we may fare even worse as the number of artists decline and we will have to pay even more money even to buy the simple art objects which would have otherwise been easily affordable to us. Therefore, in some way, art is better as an unaffordable luxury.

Artworks are costlier right from their creation. The materials necessary to create arts are highly expensive. The canvases, paints, brushes, frames, woods for handicraft works, and such are quite costly. These expensive raw materials combined with the artists’ remuneration make the artworks very pricey.

Although there are some alternatives for people to enjoy arts, they are not always viable. Instead of buying the art objects people can go to watch them in the museums and art galleries. Getting a ticket to a museum and art gallery is quite affordable in comparison to buying arts. So, this is one way people can enjoy the luxury of watching art objects without having to need much money. However, enjoying arts in the museums and galleries isn't the same as having one in our own home, which we can view as long and as many times as we want. In the museums, you'll again have to buy a new ticket if you want to view the arts another time. So, for heavy enthusiasts of arts (or the “die-hard fans”), who are not rich, art is not affordable always.

Moreover, one may argue that if someone is so enthusiastic about art, they can create artworks themselves as making art oneself would be cost effective. This argument can be tempting at first. However, this too isn't an affordable option for quite a number of people. First reason is that the materials required to make arts are quite expensive. Second making art, has its opportunity costs. Opportunity cost is anything which is forgone to perform an alternative task. So, if you give up your day job to make arts then your day job is your opportunity cost and hence that cost is also your cost of making arts. Third, it takes training and good practice to be able to make art works. And to take training you again need to spend good amount of money. So, in the end, it will not be as affordable as it seems initially.

On the contrary, some beginners might be willing to provide their artworks at an affordable price. That might be a good deal for the not-so-rich people but then such artworks might not have the expected quality. In any case, it is a trade-off between price and quality. Hence, we can conclude confidently that art is an unaffordable luxury to the majority of people.


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