According to a BBC report (June 6, 2009), the Italian government paid around $4.5m for a 40 cm wooden statue of Christ on the Cross, after a number of Renaissance art specialists attributed it to Michelangelo.

Apparently some experts are insisting it is not a Michelangelo. Now an official inquiry has been started in Italy to determine whether the statue attributed to Michelangelo was really made by him.

At some point, the value of a work of art transitions from its own artistic merits to the name behind the work. We have all seen way too many sculptures and carvings of Christ on the cross. Over 99.9% of them are cheap crap. So obviously the value of this particular piece has little to do with its artistic value, and everything to do with who did it.

There is nothing inherently wrong with paying for a name, rather than the merits of the item. That seems to be what modern fashion, as well as art, is all about. However, it is unfortunate that people attach such value to names, when the actual item may not be all that significantly better. In fact it may not be better at all.

If all art, regardless of its category, were anonymous, the art world would be insignificant. So the old expression, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” applies equally to art. I hope some guy named Bubba Johnson, of Noname, Missouri, made the above wooden statue. If he did, he might get $4 for it.