With many people around the world enjoying increases in disposable income, there has been a sizeable uptick in art sales. Some people buy art solely as an investment, although the market can be volatile and high returns not always easy to come by.
Yet there are other reasons why people buy art, which have nothing to do with making money. Art can be hard to define and everyone has a different take on what art means. But most people agree that art is important to us for a wide variety of reasons. Since ancient times, art has influenced every culture that has ever existed. Societies have evolved in lockstep with great works of art, inspiring peoples and their leaders. Art looks back in time, but it also looks to the future, grounds us and gives us hope.
So what for most of us is the fundamental driver to buying art? The answer is emotion. A work of art affects us all in different ways, but it will always move us on an emotional level. Some people will say they have fallen in love with a particular piece. Others may say it triggers memories of a particular period in their life, which can elicit happiness or even sadness. Whatever the emotion, the buyer identifies with something personal in the work which persuades them to buy it and hang it in their home.
This brings us to another major reason why we buy art. We buy it to decorate our homes and workplaces. Art enhances the environments we live and work in, both aesthetically and emotionally. Mounting a canvas on a wall is like adding another window. Only this window looks out onto a far more interesting world, one that immerses us in other cultures, nature or an artist’s slant on reality.
The right piece of art can enhance the décor; even adjust the size of the room in our mind. It’s a reflection of our personal taste and unique style, and is on show to visitors. Art can turn up or lower the emotional mood of a room, much like adjusting the volume on a TV. It can also become a focus for contemplation or meditation, soothing away the stresses of the working day.
When we buy a piece of art we like, we buy an enduring emotional and spiritual relationship with the artist too. Ideas, beliefs and philosophies expressed by the artist may be an aesthetic reflection of our own. Contemplating this bond between artist and observer can inspire new ideas and aspirations, and give us hope for a better society.
For many people, buying an original piece of art gives them a real buzz. Many top art collectors often talk of the ‘high’ they receive when buying an expensive work of art from a famous artist. The transaction for them isn’t about acquiring a promising new investment, or even filling a spiritual void. It’s about the thrill of beating their ardent competitors to an exclusive piece. The deal itself, waged in a fraught auction house, is like oxygen to them.
We buy art for many reasons. Sometimes, yes, it can be purely for investment. But other times we do so to express our individuality and our desires, for enjoyable contemplation, or to make sense of the world around us.