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Pricing Paintings

A current exhibit at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin shows an exchange of letters in 1932 between the German Expressionist Max Beckmann and the gallery director about the acquisition of some of his paintings. Beckmann’s normal selling price was 10,000-12,000 marks for a canvas, but the gallery was unwilling to pay this much. Instead, the director offered a lower price, but promised to exhibit all of Beckmann’s paintings in a room devoted solely to his work. Beckmann stated that this would benefit him, since he presumably believed publicity from the solo exhibit would raise the value of his private sales. The deal was made; as in any exchange, both sides gained a surplus –Beckmann a producer surplus, the gallery a consumer surplus. Sadly, it took Beckmann quite a while to gain financially from the deal: he was one of the so-called “degenerate artists” whose works the Nazis soon banned.