What Does $33.6 Million Mean in the Art World?

Interesting discussion with Olav Velthuis, author of Talking Prices: Symbolic Meanings of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art and David Galenson, University of Chicago professor of economics on the recent sale record set by Lucian Freud’s painting “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping”.
What Does 33.6 Million Mean in the Art World? – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog
Q: Is art perceived as having more value if someone is willing to pay more for it or the reverse?
Velthuis: Both ways: if it has artistic or aesthetic, or cultural value, people are willing to pay for it. But, as I show in my book Talking Prices: Symbolic prices on the Market for Contemporary Art, a high price definitely makes people think it must be an important piece of art. People’s valuations of art — contemporary art in particular — are influenced by a lot of things: what other people think, in which context they see it, what they know about the artists, but also what they know about the price. Empirical studies show, by the way, that if you take some indicator of cultural value (for instance, museum shows or pieces by art critics) it usually correlates very well with the selling price.