What is the symbolic value of a ‘work of art’. I’m talking more specifically about painting. How can a painting be made as something beyond value. Can it ever be viewed as something out of the speculation of ‘art’?  What does painting promise?

You can’t think about painting without realising its pedigree . Distinctive materials,  specific to painting like canvas, oil paint carry legitimacy and value in economic sense of the word.  Painting also has a universal aesthetic value — it doubles itself as this ‘idea’ of painting, authenticating the operation in the absolute, where any symbolic function can be reduced into aesthetic value, that can work as a functional object with capital. Museums and art galleries consolidate this economy by essentially  playing the role of the bank. Acting as an agency for the  ‘guarantee’ of  the universality of painting and basically prescribing the aesthetic appreciation by its viewers.  Thinking about Marx’s labour theory, for an artwork to be deemed valuable, there must the material realization of human labour.  For Marx, an artwork must be attributed to an artist to load the object with intentionality and impression to be considered valuable. I’m thinking about this in todays world economy. In a new kind of economy where commodity value is placed into non- material things, like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc, where the life of the author is where all the value is based.  What happens to painting when there is no ‘authentic’ artist presence, or is that even possible? Or will it always be reduced to these cognitive capacities? Does it really matter?


Yasmine Robinson



Referenced from For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign by Jean Baudrillard.