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Fascinating post, Georg; I have long wrestled with the complex set of questions surrounding the concept of "value", especially in situations where said value seems to mysteriously derive from traits that do not at first glance seem to inherently imply great worth. I speak of features such as Age (as in the case of antiques), or Scarcity (as in gold or diamonds), or Uniqueness (which is a subset of scarcity, I suppose).
Art is a bit easier for me to understand, since Beauty (which is implied by virtually all art) would seem to warrant value by definition. Things that are pretty are inherently more pleasant/valuable than those that are not. Same goes for Utility - an object or concept that is inherently and more or less permanently useful has definite value - the more Utility, the higher the value. But sometimes Beauty and/or Utility get mixed in with Age and Scarcity (such as a Chippendale desk which is not only useful and beautiful, but also old and very rare).
It all makes my head hurt sometimes.
As far as whether or not the state should involve itself in the ownership, preservation and display of great art, I tend to come down on the side of private ownership (which, as you note, would very likely do a better job of "husbandry" than do the politicos), but that, as they say, ain't gonna happen. Too many public officials see themselves as not only conservators, but also arbiters, of taste.
In the end, I suppose we should just be grateful that, for those who are so inclined, items like the Mona Lisa and the Pieta are available for viewing, and those who are not interested aren't forced to go see them.
Having said all that, if anyone ever figures out why an ugly old clay pot, shaped and painted by an Appalachian denizen with no sense of proportion, form or color could be thought worth many thousands of dollars, or why a rusty old weather vane is worth more than a new Audi, I hope that person will take the time and trouble to explain it to me.
Thanks for your postings - always stimulating, interesting and often make me re-think what I thought I already knew.

Thanks, Ed, for your attention and your discerning commentary.

I, in turn, am a regular reader of your inspiring blog "A View from the Middle Border", which I have again referred to only recently in my post

An Eye for Freedom


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