I don't really want to get into the discussion of what is and is not art, but more the 'legalities' behind the price of some 'artworks'.
Much has been in the press lately about Damien Hurst's new exhibition at the Tate Modern. In the gift shop you can by this skull:
It is limited to 50 copies, and they cost £36,800 each. It is stated that they are made of plastic and covered in standard gloss paint.
Obviously, the item in itself is worthless, and the price tag is arbitrary. It could have been any figure Hirst wanted. Obviously, in a free market, the skull is worth whatever anyone is willing to pay for it, and if someone is willing to stump up £36,800 then that is 'technically' its value.
BUT, working on the principle of 'you break it you pay for it' if I were to go to the gift shop, accidentally knock one off the shelf and it smashed, how much would I be legally obliged to pay?
Could I argue that the piece is worthless as it is just plastic and paint?
Could I argue that, whilst the skull may have some added 'artistic' value the price attached to it is arbritary and its worth (as with all artworks) is subjective. As a result, I think it's only worth, say, £10,000 so that's all i'm going to pay?
Or would I be liable to pay the full £36,800?