Part 1 – The year is 1889… The country is France…

The year is 1889… The country is France… 

A bidding war is taking place between the Louvre and the American Art Association for this painting ‘The Angelus’, painted by Jean-Francois Millet in 1857.

Jean-Francois first sold the piece for a discounted 1000 francs in 1860.  Now, 14 years after his death the true value of this painting’s place in culture is beginning to reveal itself… The American Art Association wins the bidding war, and the painting sells for 553,000 francs, making an enormous profit for the French art collector and copper industrialist Eugène Secrétan.

At the same time, Jean-Francois’s family survive him in poverty, never seeing one centime of the increase in value for their patriarchs endeavours.

Fast forward to 1973 New York. Robert Rauschenberg’s 1958 painting “Thaw” which first sold for $900, sells at auction for $85,000. The Latent Value of Thaw had manifested in terms of a 9,450% increase in value. Rauschenberg (left in the photo) who was present at the auction was enraged… pushing the seller Robert Scull and yelling ‘I didn’t work my ass off just for you to make all that profit.‘

These two incidents, spanning nearly a century in time, and across two different continents, show how the lack of appropriate solutions to the ‘Latency Problem’ can make victims of Artists and their dependents, and undermine the culture of Fine Art.

In Part 2… Governments around the world recognise the problem, and attempt to legislate for it.  But is legislation the right kind of intervention?