The Price of Everything (2018)


(director: Nathaniel Kahn; cinematographer: Robert Richman; editor: Brad Fuller; music: Jeff Beal/Sabine Krayenbuhl/Phillip Schopper; cast: Amy Cappellazzo, Jeff Koons, Larry Poons, Stefan Edlis, George Condo, Njideka Akunyily Crosby, Margaret Lee, Marilyn Miner, Gerard Richter; Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jennifer Blei Stockman, Debi Wisch, Carla Solomon; Hot and Sunny Productions/HBO Documentary Films; 2018)

“Takes a serious look at the contemporary art world and relates it to how the price of artwork keeps escalating.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The appealing and informative investigative documentary by Nathaniel Kahn (“My Architect”), despite no narration and no judgments made on the art, is a scintillating study of an old argument about the worth of art. It takes a serious look at the contemporary art world and relates it to how the price of artwork keeps escalating. The bulk of the film relies on interviews with artists, collectors, curators, historians, critics, and other art world notables to show how the art world is now an intricate part of the money market (functioning like a Wall Street commodity bought and sold). At art auctions such as those at Sotheby’s prestigious one in NYC, we observe a Jeff Koons painting selling for $50 million to a private collector. Other contemporary artists such as Larry Poons, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and Marilyn Minter are being auctioned at seemingly inflated price tags. This gives Kahn a chance to dissect their philosophies and creative process. In an interview, we hear how a successful prolific painter like Larry Poons chooses to abandon his trademark “dot paintings” because he believes it would have meant his creative death. It’s left for each viewer and several of the talking heads interviewed to judge for themselves how good it is for the public that the art and financial world have become partners. The film gains most of its emotional punch in its interview with art collector and plastics mogul Stefan T. Edlis, who unknowingly while being interviewed provides the film its title while talking with great passion of how he views the Maurizio Cattelan sculpture called “Him.” It seemingly makes a personal connection with his life experience. This presentation fills up most of the climax, as it seems to say what’s on the filmmaker’s mind when it comes to relaying to us what is the value of art and what that means to the wide variety of collectors who have differing reasons for collecting art. Kahn may have made this film without any pre-conceived notions, but it concludes with a cautious warning of judging an artwork’s greatness just on the price it fetches or its craftsmanship or on the artist’s reputation.


REVIEWED ON 10/21/2018 GRADE: B+