The Most Expensive Picture

15 December 2011

The idea behind The Most Expensive Picture is straightforward – anyone can pay to have their image featured on the site’s homepage, and it remains there until someone pays one dollar more to replace it. So far 56 pictures have been uploaded and once the archive reaches 300 there will be a catalogue documenting the project. It’s the brainchild of Swiss trio photographer Sebastian Stadler, graphic designer Stefan Jandl and UX designer Carlo Jörges and we spoke to the guys to find out more about this intriguing project…

How did the idea for TMEP come about?

It sounds trivial, but we came up with the idea while we were drinking a beer and discussing our individual views about design and photography.

We talked about the principles which would allow us to print the best book, to make the biggest exhibition and to achieve many other ambitious aims, without taking any risks. The idea sounded very simple to us, but we’ve spent a lot more time than we expected developing the website and customising the concept.

Was there ever any unease about the process of asking people to pay to exhibit?

We had many discussions about this. It’s major first concern that people don’t get the feeling that we want to get rich at the expense of others. But the project keeps itself running with money, it’s an important factor.

Every uploader who transferred money to us has their own reasons. Are they proud of having The Most Expensive Picture? Do they appreciate that our platform could spread to various media? Are they paying for fun?

No matter which motivation is the determining one – at this particular time it seems to be worth it for the uploader to pay the current amount.

Of course – we didn’t even know if anyone would pay one dollar to exhibit. So there is still sort of an unease that the project will go up the creek after a few uploaders and we cannot satisfy their expectations.

Is the site also a comment about the value we put on works of art?

It was never our intention to do a comment and we try to be cautious about it. But – intentionally or unintentionally – it’s an interesting issue which unavoidably is getting more important with the rising amount.

We like the fact that there is kind of an inversion. The value of the works is not dependent on the demand of somebody else, it’s a kind of self-esteem which becomes important. 

How do you see the project developing?

We’re really happy so far. We didn’t expect that we would generate such an amount of high quality pictures. The project is still taking place within a small environment  of ambitious photographers and designers. We’re curious to see how long this quality will persist.

We like the perception of a picture within the shifting context of our website. We’re curious if it will be interesting for a broader public. Maybe there will be some advertising or marriage proposals soon? We hand over control – all we could influence was the conceptual framework.

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About the Author

Rob Alderson

Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.

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