There is a prevailing belief, particularly in the upper echelons of the contemporary art world, that art makes a great investment. (For a good overview see Caslon Analytics art fund note.) However, research shows that in the overwhelming majority of cases, art is neither a good nor efficient investment.
Why buy art? The simple answer for some may be “because it matches my couch.” While consumers might purchase art because they want to coordinate their homes or offices, the motivations for bringing original art into one’s physical space can be deeper, more complex than simply enhancing one’s décor.
Artists give the world something it didn’t know it was missing.” Dan Pink, May 2011
According to research by Unity Marketing, demand for art and other decorative wall items is growing. Since 2010, the share of American households that purchased any art, wall decor or picture frames rose from 47 percent to 54 percent in 2012. Moreover, purchasers are trading up from mass-produced decoration to one-of-a-kind original art.
There are a myriad reasons for art purchases. One of the primary is emotion. Unity Marketing observed that over 70% of American consumers surveyed agreed with the statement, “When choosing art for my home, the way the piece makes me feel is the most important.” This aligns with Mercartto.com's own research where 62% of responses said art was purchased “because they fell in love with it.” A previous post in this blog supported the relationship between art and endorphins, noting that works of art can give as much joy as being head over heels in love.
Art makes people happier to be where they are. It enhances one’s home/work environment and improves quality of life. It can make a small room seem bigger, and a larger room cosier. For many, art serves as a conduit for self-expression and is a reflection of their individuality and personal taste. For others, art offers an escape: a chance for contemplation, a moment relived, a journey to another culture, another way of seeing and thinking. Art can inspire new ideas, perspectives and goals for both adults and children. Often people buy art to be part of a community. As noted by author Sarah Thornton,
Just as churches and other ritualistic meeting places serve a social function, so art events generate a sense of community around shared interests... People really talk about the art they see. Reading takes a long time and is solitary, whereas art fosters quick-forming imagined communities.”
Moreover, art has been known to improve society (e.g. artists revitalizing blighted neighbourhoods), not to mention that it is environmentally friendly, energy efficient, easy to maintain and enduring. Finally, people buy art for status and investment reasons. According to Alan Bamberger, critic art appraiser and author of The Art of Buying Art, one of the main reasons buy art is some purchasers believe, rightly or wrongly, that it might one day be worth more than they pay for it. They may buy because they like, but in the backs of their minds they hope and pray that the future bodes big bucks for their new acquisitions. But in the majority of cases, buyers never see profits over costs.
A la David Letterman... Top 16 reasons to buy original art (hat tip to Alan Bamberger for inspiration)
Emotion: It creates an emotional reaction in the viewer. According to research by Unity Marketing, over 70% of American consumers surveyed agreed with the statement, “When choosing art for my home, the way the piece makes me feel is most important.”
- Improve quality of life: Art can improve how people feel about their physical space. By enhancing one’s home or work environment, quality of life improves (think of the difference between a blank wall vs. one with art). It shapes the emotional mood of the home. It can make a small room seem bigger (e.g. large, open landscape with remote horizon or calming abstract) and a larger room cosier (collection of smaller pieces).
- Escape: Art can provide opportunities for quiet contemplation and escape from the day-to-day. It can be regularly uplifting. It can be an object of meditation.
- Individuality: Allows people to express their individuality and taste. It can reflect, enhance and magnify the personality of the individual who owns it.
- Self-expression: Can be a visual representation of one’s beliefs, feelings, convictions, philosophies and aspirations.
- Memento: Art can conjure memories from a specific period of time, like a trip abroad, milestone, etc. My friend saw the favelas of her recent trip to Rio; the artist drew from the crackling surrounding a candle. I guess there's truth to art being in the eye of the beholder.
- It’s a window: Art can enrich our lives by offering us glimpses of other cultures, religions, histories, seeing and thinking, nature, etc.
- Inspiration: Art can inspire new ideas, perspectives, goals.
- Be part of a community. Sharing art with others can be instant. Want a community? Just visit the Mona Lisa in July (but good luck trying to buy it).
- Improve society: Quoting Alan Bamberger: Across the country and around the world, artists move into troubled or blighted neighborhoods or parts of cities and revitalize them with their artistry. Their creative expression increases property values, new businesses move in, and the overall quality of life improves immeasurably. Sooner or later, the public at large discovers these wondrous transformations, and in some cases, people actually travel thousands of miles to visit these oases, spend time there, and of course, buy art.
- Gift: As a gift for a special occasion (wedding, birthday, anniversary, retirement, graduation).
- Support the artist: To support the artist behind it. Collectors like to get not just a painting, but a piece of the artist as well. More on this in future posts!
- Children: To teach children by encouraging them to fantasize, use their imagination and explore their own creativity.
- Status: Art can be used to signify wealth, success, power. Sarah Thornton pg. xii Art is not classless.... Art is about experimenting and ideas, but it is also about excellence and exclusion. In a society where everyone is looking for a little distinction, it’s an intoxicating combination.”
- Non-disposable: It’s environmentally friendly, energy efficient, easy to maintain and enduring. It is not generally destined for landfill.
- Investment: As a financial investment. According to Alan Bamberger, one of the main reasons people buy art is they believe, right or wrong, that it might one day be worth more than they pay for it. They may buy because they like, but in the backs of their minds they hope and pray that the future bodes big bucks for their new acquisitions. But in the majority of cases, buyers never see profits over costs.