The fine art market is home to a concept known as “wall power”. This advocates a notion of the-bigger-the-better, particularly when it comes to contemporary art. Partially this is because a larger work of art on your wall – or a larger sculpture in your hallway or garden – is likely to have a bigger impact. However, wall power can have its drawbacks at auction. In order for substantially sized paintings or sculpture to do well (assuming they’re any good, of course), an auction house must be able to attract buyers not just with enough money to raise the level of bidding, but also with homes and gardens large enough to accommodate such purchases to scale.
So works like these can also be status symbols, because they tell everyone that the buyer is of sufficient means both to buy the work at a significant price and also must have a big enough wall to hang it on.
Never underestimate status as a strong driver of demand when it comes to buying art among the wealthy.
Fortunately, not all art is priced by the inch. In fact, some of the world’s most expensive pieces are very small indeed. The world’s rarest and most desirable stamp, for instance, the 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, has been valued at around $15 million for auction in New York soon, while Leonardo da Vinci’s beautiful signed drawing of the head of a bear is expected to fetch up to £12 million at auction this summer. However, for my money, the most desirable work per inch sold at auction must be an ancient carving known as the Guennol Lioness. Around 5,000 years old and from Mesopotamia, the limestone sculpture has a remarkably modern Art Deco air about it. Its chiselled features stand out strongly along it 8cm high frame. When it came to auction in 2007, it sold for $57.2 million.