art value - Issue 3
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art value 3
2. Jahrgang 2008


Dear Readers,

We understand a qualitative characteristic to be a fundamental feature that characterizes an object in a typical, perhaps even unique, manner. It refers to the particular. A quantitative characteristic, by contrast, refers to measurability and comparability, consequently the general character. It is common knowledge that the quality of an art work cannot be measured by quantities such as size or weight. Qualitative definitions, meanwhile, are rooted in the purely subjective and can not be generalized. This poses a dilemma.

If one speaks about the value of art, one cannot help but ignore this dilemma. One compares qualities and thereby makes use of quantifying means in order to make qualifying judgments. He who speaks about the value of art tests the ojectivitifiability of his subjective perception.

Art indexes can do precisely this: they transfer qualitative uniqueness into the realm of quantitative enumerable objects. Christian Knebel provides readers with an overview of the limits and potentials of current methods; Jianping Mei and Michael Moses give a detailed account of the way their index works. The mathematically calculated curves suggest objectivity, but they reflect,
however, only collective attributions, as the sociologists Jens Beckert and Jörg Rössel point out.

In addition to the creation of price indexes the poles between quality and quantity are well suited as an illustration of the art market and market phenomena. This is true with regard to historic perspectives, as Michael North demonstrates using the model of 17th century Holland. It is also applicable to the contemporary practice of creating reprints from photographs, as Stefan Kobel reports.

Ulli Seegers examines the question of whether the avaricious shortage of supply leads to an increase in the price when stolen art works reappear on the market. León Krempel’s investigations, by contrast, are involved with the increase in the presentation space, which, thanks to different styles
of hanging over the centuries, has resulted in more attention being paid to the individual works.

The texts by Rolf Schneider and Saskia Draxler are dedicated to the so far little regarded art markets in East Germany before the reunification and in Moscow following Glasnost.

Of all the positions regarding the value of art, which we present here in art value 3, those of Harald Falckenberg and Niklas Luhmann may be the two that differ the most. In our interview with Falckenberg, he confesses to an entirely subjective approach to art work and artists, while Luhmann is not interested in the individual in front of or behind the art work. Jochen Venus outlines
the fundamentals of Luhmann’s Art as a social system. As a sociological theory, which uses the function and communication system of art as a point of reference, it generates fundamental impulses for a deeper understanding of art.

I wish to thank the contributing authors, the curator Katja Schroeder and the artists Ruth May and Simone Gilges for their kind cooperation and the Readers for their interest.

Your Tilman Welther


Ulli Seegers describes the relationship between art crimes and how they affect the market. Earlier this year six art works were stolen from museums in and around Zurich resulting in the works’ unexpected overnight fame. Seegers’ contribution is based on the exam­ple of Emil Nolde's Nadja, which was stolen in 1977, resurfaced nearly thirty years later and then was sold by the heirs in 2007, fetching the highest selling price of any work sold at auction to that time in Germany. Extensive media attention, a fascinating subject, a clarified provenance, a work’s certified excellent condition and vigor in the market – these are the conditions that help fetch record prices and not just because of theft. The provenance of a work is more important than ever.