Jaeborn By The Numbers Image

Tell me what you paid for it and I’ll tell you if it’s beautiful. – Matt Jaeborn.

Art is subjective, and determining the value of art is speculative at vest. Roger Gariépy’s short film Jaeborn By The Numbers is an intriguing look into the world of contemporary art and asks the questions, “What is art?” and “How much is it worth?”

The film opens at a Christie’s auction house where three pieces of art by famed contemporary artist Matt Jaeborn sells for $14 million. Jaeborn’s art is so expensive, art museums can’t afford to house them, and these three paintings are truly unique to Jaeborn himself. They were created when Jaeborn was a teenager, and he painted them by matching the color of his paint palette with the number of the shape on the canvas. Yes, the three paintings were from a paint-by-numbers kit he bought and the only original part of the image is Jaeborn’s signature.

What is the value of art? When the paint-by-number pieces sold for millions, art critics and appraisers went nuts because this single transaction threw the art appraisal industry out of whack.  Searching for answers, Gariépy interviews as many people he could find who was involved in the sale, including Matt Jaeborn himself. The only person he couldn’t get was the anonymous buyer, who paid for it.

“…sells for $14 million…he painted them by matching the color of his paint palette with the number of the shape on the canvas.”

Jaeborn By The Numbers is probably my favorite art film so far in regards to the business of art. For one, I love a good discussion and two, I love when people are honest and don’t bother to answer in a PC fashion. Jaeborn himself is somewhat cynical about art economics. He claims most art collectors are frauds and are really art speculators. They don’t love art; they love potential an art piece has for growth in value.

Jaeborn himself is also an interesting character. He questions the value of his own art wondering what its value would be if he never became famous. You discover his practice of not signing a painting until the check clears. Does value come from his signature or the image on the canvas? His use of interns is also fascinating. He’s also not afraid to go after fellow artist like Jeff Koon and art speculator Bernard Pinault.

I don’t claim to know a single thing about paintings and art, but Jaeborn By The Numbers presents a fascinating discussion in a nice 22-minute package. Also, Gariépy locates the buyer of Jaeborn’s paint-by-numbers.

Jaeborn By The Numbers (2019) Directed by Roger Gariépy. Jaeborn By The Numbers screened at the 2019 Palm Springs ShortFest.

8 out of 10 stars

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