Adam Alter’s article in New York Magazine Oct 12, 2013 issue cites a number of psychological studies exploring how humans assign value. “We’re swayed by all the wrong cues, and our valuation estimates are correspondingly incoherent…..discerning true value is as difficult as spotting a genuine Banksy canvas in a city brimming with imitations.”
It seems to me that most of discerning value in art is speculation based on a fantasy of a future pay off (with the exception of the guys who just need something to cover the walls) The evolving brain looks to the future, beyond immediate survival. Storing up resources for later consumption. The pleasure lies in that rather than in the present. When we are on the hunt, all our senses are on hyper alert to the cues that serve our goals undeterred by distractions. It takes a disruption a shock to derail a man with purpose.
Banksy’s sale was an attempt to shock us. His swipe at the all powerful galleries and collectors made its mark, but, for the economist it was just an example of supply and demand, the speculators a lost opportunity and the businessman poor marketing. As Adam Alter explains it is the inevitable machinations of the brain. For the artist, however it was a humorous reminder of what we already knew. A big laugh, the last laugh. We get to make art.