"Still, the fine art market plays a large role in defining which art is important. And as a result, so too do the heirs and hedge fund managers that supply the money. As the Mona Lisa anecdote suggests, which artworks get singled out as masterpieces may always be partly arbitrary. But the legacy of money doing the picking leads to one of the least attractive aspects of the fine art world: the mysterious aura surrounding renowned artists and artwork that makes museum visitors who don’t like or “get” a masterpiece feel anxious or resent the art world.
Although it is the opinion of one artist, Webster believes that the public should not blame artists for the cult of personality that surrounds artists. “Famous artists do not create the aura,” Webster says. “It is the gallery, promoter, critic, and buyer, all of whom are more willing to uphold these pillars of pretension so that their investments can maintain power.” When the art world buys and sells paintings for extravagant amounts of money, those paintings can’t be simple. Expensive art demands gilded justifications for its price tag and packaging in layers of obfuscation. This benefits artists whose work sells for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. But it comes at the cost of alienating the public from the art world."