Imagine it’s the year 1913, the occasion of the first Armory Show. You make a special trip for a shoeshine (that costs you all of ten cents), during which you sip a five-cent coffee and daydream about the art you’ve heard so much about but have yet to see for yourself. For a dollar’s admission, you’re granted entry to the fair, and for $20, you exit with a
under one arm and a
in the other (you liked the
, but $500 was a little steep).
Adjusting for inflation, it is slightly easier to understand how the main attraction of the fair, ’s Nude Descending a Staircase
, was sold for $324. But even considering the conversion of the Armory Show’s most expensive work, ’s View of the Domaine Saint-Joseph
that sold for $6,700—the equivalent of about $150,000 today—the works are still a bargain by our current stratospheric standards.
Photos courtesy of Smithsonian Archives of American Art. Check out their 1913 Armory Show digital exhibition here.