A 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting was sold at Sotheby’s for $110.5 million which made it the sixth most expensive artwork ever sold at an auction. You might have thought about what makes a canvas covered in paint amount to so much money. Here are ten reasons why paintings are valuable.


The primary element that sets a cheap painting apart from a costly one is its authenticity. An original Claude Monet painting is always going to be worth more than a copy of the same.


The provenance of artwork, or a rich history of who it belonged to previously, is another determining factor in the value of the artwork. For instance, if a painting used to be owned by a prominent collector or came from a highly esteemed gallery, it will be worth a lot more automatically.


The condition of the painting is yet another vital factor which affects its price. If, for instance, an artwork has a tear or sun damage, it can adversely affect its price by a great degree.

Historical Significance

If the artwork in question is a major player in the canon of art history, it can potentially add a few 0’s to its price right away.

Popularity Of The Artist

If the artist is very trendy at the time of sale, their work will cost much more, even if it has no real staying power.


If the work of art in question exhibits features of a famous artist that make them stand out, it will be worth a lot more. A cubist painting by Pablo Picasso, for instance, will typically cost more than one of his early landscapes, because people recognise Picasso for his extensive work on cubism.

Backstory Of The Artist

Interesting backstories of artists, like an early death, for instance, can affect the price of their paintings by leaps and bounds. This is because people love to know the story behind each painting, especially the one they want to buy, and the more attractive the backstory, the better the pricing will be. The artist’s early death can also increase the painting’s price because there are only a few paintings of the artist out there.



Artwork done on canvas will generally sell for more than artwork done on paper. In the same way, paintings will obviously sell for more than a sketch or, of course, a print.


Another factor that comes into play when determining a painting’s value is the colours involved. Paintings that contain red, historically cost more than ones with other colours.

Subject Matter

Artworks that depict certain subject matter tend to sell for a more significant amount than others. For example, even though there are exceptions here and there, paintings of beautiful women tend to be worth more than paintings of men. Sunny landscapes tend to sell better than dark ones and ships in calm seas sell for more compared to ships in a storm. These rules don’t apply when the artist in question is extremely famous.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.