One thing that has continued to puzzle me about art is the question of how much does a work's history and social setting influence how we view the work. What I mean is, will a masterpiece still be considered a masterpiece if it is taken out of the museum and shown to an audience who has no knowledge of the piece or the artistic tradition from which it comes. This is important to me because I wonder if some artists have become famous not because of their own merits, but because a lot of under-educated art collectors have championed them.
There is an interesting way to test the effects of showing art to an unknowing audience. In the following video a New York contemporary artist, I am not familiar with his work but apparently he has quite the following, attempts to sell some of his art on the street. These paintings that, in the right circles, would fetch a handsome sum, here bring in just a few hundred dollars.
The interesting thing is that after the video was released, a "fake Banksy" sold fakes in the same spot and completely sold out. In this case the celebrity of the stunt made fake paintings very valuable.
I think we can clearly see that the works' fame is definitely what is driving the sale. This sort of experiment was conducted a few years back in Washington DC where a world famous violinist went into the subway to play some of Bach's most difficult pieces on a antique violin worth several million dollars. He did not even make the kind of money from tips that a normal busker would. Take a look for you self and tell me what you think. Is all fine art the construct of a pretentious "in-crowd?" (For the record I love the arts, and Bach.)