It’s a perplexing question.  I wouldn’t dare to judge the value of say, gold, diamond or something beyond my expertise.  I know something about art because I have spent my life studying it and appraising it.  I am able to establish an approximate value of a work of art although the value of art is determined by many other factors, including the motivation of the buyer.  So like beauty, the value of art is in the eyes of the beholder.
Once I had gone on a morning walk and saw a garage sale in another neighborhood. One item caught my eye and I stopped to examine it. It was a Tibetan Buddhist painting of Mandala called Thangka. In my judgment the painting was at least two hundred years old. It was priced at $60, but it was worth 50 times more. When enquired about the history of the painting, the man told me that his grandfather, a missionary doctor, had lived in Nepal in the 1960s and it was a parting gift by a local lama for curing his illness. His grandfather, who lived to be 96, passed away a few months ago and he is trying to sell his belongings before he can put the house on the market for sale. Because I was on a walk I didn’t have my wallet with me to purchase the painting. I asked the man to hold it until I get the money. When I finally returned thirty minutes later with the money the painting was gone. The person who bought the painting knew its value.

I am inspired to write this story after I read an incident from the life of the Buddha. Once a man asked the Buddha, “What’s the value of life?” As Buddha always sends anyone who comes to ask him a question on a journey to find the answer for himself, he gave him a piece of shiny rock to take it to the market to determine its value. But he admonished not to sell the rock at any cost.So the man took the rock to the city. The first man he encountered was an orange seller. Showing the shiny rock to the orange seller, the man asked its value. After examining the rock carefully, the seller offered him a dozen oranges. The man refused to sell him the rock and moved on until he met a potato seller. He asked the same question to the potato seller. Again, on examining the rock carefully, the potato seller offered him a bushel of potato. He pressed on and went to the jeweler who offered him five hundred thousand rupees for the rock. Because he refused to sell it for that price, he offered him two million rupees. Even after he didn’t sell it, the jeweler brought out a velvet napkin to hold the rock. He then bowed to the rock and circumambulated it three times with his hands folded. He then said, “I can’t put a price on this rock. It’s priceless.”

From this story, it becomes clear that the value of an object depends on who examines it and who desires to own it. For example, paintings made by famous artists such as Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso and others have fetched record high prices in the auction houses. The highest paid works of art to date are by Paul Gauguin and Paul Cézanne. They have been valued at between 250 and 300 million U.S. dollars each.

A question naturally arises, “What’s so special about these works of art that someone is willing to pay such record prices?” Cezanne’s painting called “Card Players” was purchased by an unknown buyer in Qatar. By association with the country of Qatar, we can infer that the buyer must be a billionaire. Otherwise, who’s able to fork out more than 250 million U.S. dollars for a painting?

Desire and affordability are two key elements in acquiring a great work of art like these. For example, I like all of these paintings that are listed as the world’s highest valued works of art. But no matter how much I like them, I can’t afford them. Does money really determine the value of an object or life? Who judges whose life is more valuable than the other’s? What are the qualifications?