12.12.2018

What is the value?

Recently, London-based artist Banksy made it into the headlines by shredding his 'Girl With Balloon' artwork, immediately after it was auctioned for almost $1.4m (USD).  According to Sotheby’s auction house, the unknown buyer agreed to keep the half-shredded painting, rather than look to sue the artist for damage or pull out of the purchase. 

The act of shredding the painting, which has in effect created a new artwork since named ‘Love is in the Bin’, sets a new and interesting precedent when it comes to determining an item’s value.

Where it gets complicated, and fascinating, is that many in the art community agree the value of the artwork may have actually (and counter-intuitively!) increased after the event. Questions may be justifiably raised around how this impact on the artworks’ value might affect both the successful bidder, and also all the other bidders who missed out. 

In any case, the yet-to-be-determined new value of the modified artwork will only truly be known when it returns to the market.

So what does this tell us about value?

Well, it is important to be aware that there are different types of value.

The terminology most commonly used however, is ‘market value’. The International Valuation Standards Council defines market value as, “…the estimated amount for which an asset or liability should exchange on the valuation date between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arm’s length transaction, after proper marketing and where the parties had each acted knowledgeably, prudently and without compulsion.”

But as we see in the case of the Banksy painting, market value can change, and external influences – in this case, the artist effectively ‘destroying’ the original piece – can impact rapidly on value, both positively and negatively.  

In the case of an asset such as land, the value of the same land can differ based on whether it’s sold as a single title or more. Similarly, the value of equipment generally decreases with deterioration, but variables such as rarity, demand, availability of parts and heritage can all impact on the market value.

Once in a lifetime stunts, such as the case of the ‘Girl With Balloon’, give us a unique insight and understanding of valuation challenges. In this case, remarkably, the deterioration of the asset resulted in an increase in the value of the artwork. In hindsight, did the auction house undervalue the painting, or was it simply exposed to forces outside of its control?

As valuers, we understand the importance of a critical assessment review for every scenario. All valuations are different. We have tools and guidelines to help us assess value reliably and accurately, but incidences like this remind us that, in some contexts, valuation can be more of an art than a science!

Photo credit Dominic Robinson from flickr.com

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