$2 Million Tom Thomson Painting

Putting A ($2 Million) Price On Art

While you were at work yesterday, maybe feeling a little guilty about that $5 latte you just bought, a man named Ash Prakash was down on King St., spending almost $2 million on a painting. This painting pictured, in fact - Tom Thomson's Pine Trees At Sunset.

You've probably come across this story already, because it's smashed Canadian art auction records. Estimated to go for $900,000 to $1 million, by the time all was said and done, the final price tag was $1,957,000.

But the thing that gets me is a little detail dropped into CTV's story: that 12 years ago, this very same painting went up for auction at $65,000, and didn't sell.

(You'll have to watch the video to hear that fact; it's not mentioned in the write-up.)

What causes a painting to skyrocket in value like that? Some are citing Thomson's mysterious death, but that was in 1917, so you'd think this would have caught our attention sometime before today.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a lovely little painting (and little is the right word - it's only about the size of a regular piece of paper). And I get that Thomson was a major influence on the Group of Seven and so his work is a major part of Canadiana.

But call me crazy, I just can't wrap my head around this idea that the total value of a piece of art isn't in the art itself, just in how much people want it. Because that has nothing to do with art: it has to do with marketing.

The truth is, Thomson's painting sold for such a high price because Thomson is hot right now. And for some reason, I find that a bit sad. Especially when you think about the artists in Toronto who do amazing work and struggle to make a couple thousand bucks.

Anyway, if you've got an extra $2 million kicking around, another Thomson painting goes up for auction tonight. Come on - it'll only cost you the price of a latte a day for the next 1095 years.


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