The Price of Everything

In Cinemas Now

Sundance Grand Jury Prize-nominated documentary examining the dynamics at play in pricing blue chip art pieces.

"Basquiat paintings regularly fetch tens of millions of dollars, and the recent sale of a little-known Da Vinci topped $450 million — but what forces are driving the white-hot art market? Who assigns and who pays these astronomical sums? What currency adequately measures art’s value? The Price of Everything leads us into a rarefied labyrinth of galleries, studios, and auction houses to wrestle with these questions and explore what society loses and gains when art becomes a rich person’s commodity." (Sundance Film Festival)

Trailers

Directed by

Documentary, Festival & Independent

105mins

Rating: M Coarse language and nudity

USA

Aaron-Yap2

Aaron Yap

flicks

Watching The Price of Everything invites feelings of aggravation toward the art world. You want to hate the obscenely rich snapping up multi-million-dollar artworks for their own private collection. You want to hate the slimy wheelers-and-dealers who might else well be trading stock. You want to hate the artists who crank out pieces like they’re making designer handbags.

But director Nathaniel Kahn—perhaps realising the contemporary art market is the easiest, most obvious thing to skewer (looking at you Velvet Buzzsaw)—approaches the subject from an open, genuinely curious, rather than sneeringly critical, place. We’re afforded the chance to ponder, along with him, the paradoxical, uneasy, but decidedly fascinating union of art and commerce.

Kahn finds an accessible way in by paralleling the career paths of two artists. Up in the art-elite stratosphere is Jeff Koons, a former Wall Street broker whose shiny, slick objects of desire continue to fetch bids around the price range of your average blockbuster movie. Away from the bustling auction houses, there’s Larry Poons, a forgotten 81-year-old relic from the ‘60s toiling away on a batch of abstract paintings in his remote Catskills garage (“A lot of people have thought I was dead for a long time,” he tells Kahn).

If your art isn’t going under the hammer, is it even great? Kahn’s documentary doesn’t arrive at any definitive answers. It examines the question from various contexts, gathering thoughtful responses from critics, historians, auctioneers, curators, dealers and artists into a slight but buoyant, absorbing survey of a complicated, increasingly inseparable relationship.

Hollywood Reporter

press

An entertaining if not comprehensive look at the bubble in blue-chip art.

Variety (USA)

press

[A] brilliant and captivating documentary about how the art world got converted into a money market...

Guardian (UK)

press

There’s something so fluid, almost nebulous, about its construction that a chasm starts to open up where you would expect to find some kind of unifying thesis.

New York Times

press

While this colorful and inquisitive cinematic essay on the state of the art world is occasionally skeptical and consistently thoughtful, cynicism isn’t really on its agenda.

Los Angeles Times

press

Kahn is a quiet filmmaker, and he gently prods his sources to go beyond the typical art world hyperbole of "gorgeous" and "wonderful."

TimeOut (London)

press

An intelligent film, 'The Price of Everything' is also very funny - usually on purpose, though some of the art is ridiculous.

Little White Lies

press

Cool and nominally neutral, there is nonetheless a genius use of one scene from Martin Scorsese's grim and glossily-reproachful The Wolf of Wall Street that makes the director's feelings on the subject crystal clear.

Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)

press

I walked into The Price of Everything not knowing who Larry Poons was and walked out quite besotted with the lovable old goat.