If I knew what art is, I would keep it to myself.

[Pablo Picasso]

Those who are interessted in art photography may have seen it already:

Peter Lik Print Sells for $6.5 Million, Shattering Record for Most Expensive Photo

Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik has taken the crown for most expensive photo ever sold. “Phantom,” the picture shown above, was sold to a private collector for a staggering $6.5 million. The record was previously held by Andreas Gursky’s “Rhein II”, which sold for $4.3 million back in 2011.[http://petapixel.com]

"Phantom"                  Photo: Peter Lik www.lik.com

I will not comment on the photograph now - any definition of "art" is anyway a subjective one. Perhaps only this: I personally prefer it definitely to Gursky's picture...

For me the really interesting about this story are the discussions, which can be found on various art criticism pages and Photography Blogs on the Internet ...

Let‘s start with the official announcing from Peter Lik‘s website:
“Phantom” Sells for an Astounding $6.5 Million 
Peter Lik has officially made art history by selling the most expensive photograph ever – setting a world record. An official press release was issued today, outlining details on the $6.5 million sale of masterwork, “Phantom.”
  One of Peter’s all-time, favorite places to shoot lies in the Southwestern region of the United States, where he is continually drawn to Arizona’s Antelope Canyon – a slot canyon carved out by natural flowing water over the course of millions of years. It is here, in a subterranean cavern, that Peter captured “Phantom” – a stunning, black & white depiction of a ghostlike figure.
  The private collector, who purchased the $6.5 million “Phantom” in November 2014, also acquired Lik’s masterworks “Illusion” for $2.4 million and “Eternal Moods” for $1.1 million. With this incredible $10 million sale, Lik now holds four of the top 20 spots for most expensive photographs ever sold. He already has a position in the ranking with a previous $1 million sale of famed image, “One.”
  For over 30 years, Peter has followed a calling to capture and share the most beautiful places on earth. A myriad of awards and accolades mark the career of a dedicated and talented artist – a man who came from humble beginnings in his native Australia. This historic moment only further proves that Peter Lik is undoubtedly a true leader in the world of fine art.
"This historic moment only further proves that Peter Lik is undoubtedly a true leader in the world of fine art."  Well, that's a powerful statement, isn‘t it? But many others don‘t see it this way: 
The Most Expensive Photo in the World, or the Best Marketing Stunt?
As with his 2010 piece, One, the purported sale was to a private collector, and therefore there was no way to verify the claim. Rumors have swirled for years that Lik’s investors “buy” his works at absurd prices as a marketing stunt to generate interest in his work. Lik has multiple galleries in the US and in his home country of Australia, and aggressive sales tactics are a hallmark of the galleries’ style. [petapixel.com]
Let's set aside the discussion what's art and what's not. Let's see how the price of a work of art is "made":
Sara Friedlander, Vice President, Head of Evening Sales at Christie’s explained that the price of a photo in the art world is based on an amalgamation of uniqueness, provenance and scale. [petapixel.com]
Side note: Really? Size matters? And what about technique? (you know, there is a x-rated joke about size and technique ;-))

A somewhat different, less commercial access has Jörg Heiser, editor of the art magazine „Freeze“:
1. Reflects the artwork its time?2. Is the artist  tusing he material skilfully, intelligent and/or in a imaginative way?3. If the resulting artwork original, funny or witty?4. Is the artwork touching or surprising me, do I learn something new? 
As I said earlier, I do not want to evaluate Lik's picture. This is done by others. Like Jonathan Jones, the art critic of the British newspaper The Guardian. And there it will be really funny:
Peter Lik’s hollow, cliched and tasteless black and white shot of an Arizona canyon isn’t art – and proves that photography never will be. [theguardian.com]
The same critic has written about a year ago the following:

Photography is the serious art of our time. It also happens to be the most accessible and democratic way of making art that has ever been invented. 
But the photography that meets the critieria of the art world is just a tiny sliver of the camera's artistic riches. From news images to the Hubble telescope, Photography is the art of real life – however manipulated. And real life creates true art. [theguardian.com]
So can we take such rankings like "The most expensive photograph ever" seriously? And can we take art critic seriously (aside from that that they can "make" an "Artist" or can prevent an artist's career)? IMHO: No.

Finally, the definition of an art critic I've found somewhere on the web (sorry, don‘t know where anymore):

An art critic is nothing more than a conscientious objector who goes down into the battlefield long after the war has been waged and pokes the wounded.

Exactly to the point.

 Update 14/12/2014

The story is - not unexpectedly - causing quite a stir (at least in the world of photographers;-)). 

First of all, the response from Sean O'Hagan, another art critic of The Guardian:

Especially Lik‘s  self-appointed titel of a "true leader in the world of fine art" is challenged more then once:
As 'fine art' Lik’s work has been ignored by major art galleries and dismissed by critics - when his photos have gone up for public auction, they have not sold well. Lik’s photographs have no secondary market or value.This makes the '$6.5m canyon: the most expensive photograph ever' claim all the more questionable - that's the story - it has nothing to do with art but everything to do with the truth and marketing.
One can find a lot of stories about Lik (eg here and here).  Taken aside the quality of his photographs he seems to be first and foremost a "true leader in self marketing"...

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