For What It’s Worth…

If you’re not familiar with the show Adam Ruins Everything here’s the pitch: comedian Adam Conover takes big subjects–weddings, pets, prison, death–and challenges common misconceptions about those subjects in entertaining ways. I’m kind of hooked on it and I rarely feel like anything’s really been ruined for me; I just feel slightly better informed, especially after watching several episodes in a row, which is why I dread the inevitable Adam Ruins Binge Watching, but that’s another story.

In a second season episode Adam Ruins Art he breaks down the idea that experts have an objective understanding of what’s good art and what’s bad art, and he explains that the sometimes ridiculous prices on art, especially modern art, mean that wealthy collectors can buy a piece then donate it and get a tax break. So it’s not just gallery owners and artists who have the chutzpah to smack a six-figure price tag on a pile of beer bottles and cigarette butts; it can benefit the collectors too. Anyway for a palette cleanser I switched over to the first season’s Adam Ruins Restaurants in which he talks about, among other things, how wine experts will praise an expensive wine and bash a cheap one even if it’s the same wine.

And that got me thinking about how we value things and how a high price can trick us into thinking something’s inherently more valuable than something with a low price, and, graffiti is pretty cheap. Most people even think graffiti brings down the value of an area, or they think about the cost of removing it. Graffiti might be the only art that’s seen as having a negative value. So consider this piece.

This funny, odd little fish made me smile when I saw it from the second floor of the Belcourt Theater. It was across the street, on a building that was under construction. And because of the way it was placed it could only be seen from inside the theater’s second floor, or if you were one of the construction crew. I only saw it after I’d bought a movie ticket. I wasn’t looking for graffiti but did that make a difference? And whoever put it there took a risk. They took the risk of being caught, of being injured. All that gets into my head and makes me wonder, what’s it worth?

 

8 Comments

  1. Ray V

    I’ve noticed graffiti differently since reading your blog…I guess you can say I’ve been enlightened. Also, thanks for the piece from my favorite movie of all time, The Meaning of Life.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m so glad you look at graffiti differently. I still look at some of it as ugly and criminal, but there’s a lot of modern art in galleries that’s also ugly and the prices on some of it are criminal. Also stay away from the salmon mousse.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    Thanks for finding the fish. Chris. That’s worth a lot.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Your comments are very valuable to me, and I’m not just fishing for compliments.

      Reply
  3. Red

    I wholeheartedly agree with Adam’s ruining of wine. Like what you like! Before moving to China, a cousin informed me that I wouldn’t find good wine here. Well, A) Beijing has almost everything, for a price. B) Although I know what is “good” wine, and include some “good” wines in my preferences, I have found a cheap Chinese wine that is definitely not “good” (sweet almost like communion wine) but *Doesn’t*Give*Me*Red*Wine*Headache in the morning! Whoa!

    Drink what you like. Art is what you like, too.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Yes! Art, wine, food–it’s all about what you like. I know some people whom I’d describe as wine snobs who’ll tell you that a cheaper wine is better than a more expensive wine, but what they’re really saying is they like the wine regardless of the price.

      Reply
  4. Arionis

    I know people that will only buy expensive things because they assume it’s the best. At the other end of the spectrum I know people that will only buy cheap things because they think they are getting a deal. I find that, like many things in life, there is usually a happy medium and that’s where I strive to steer my ship.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      You’re very wise. As I was reading your comment I thought of a character in Voltaire’s Candide who proves how smart he is by hating everything. At least he thinks he’s showing off his refined tastes by being a hater, but the smart people are the ones who realize he’s just an asshole. Balance is best.

      Reply

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