Tell Me True: Why Do You Buy Art?

I was having a conversation with a fellow artist at the Sculptors Gallery in Portland last week. We started chatting about why people buy art, to include our own motivations. A lot of people considered to be “art collectors” are looking for a good investment. They’ll drop thousands of dollars on a piece of fine art in the hopes that a few years down the line it’ll be worth even more thousands–or even millions–of dollars. Others are buying pieces that match the colors and aesthetic of a particular room in their home, or because they have a space to fill on a wall or in a corner. On a more personal level, many collectors enjoy supporting artists they like, and on a grander scale they may endeavor to help an entire movement come to fruition.

My own motivations tend to come from a place of personal enjoyment. Sometimes I’ll see an original or a print that really speaks to me, whether on an aesthetic or spiritual level (or both) and I decide I want to be able to keep looking at it. Very often the art has nature-based themes, and in our discussion I figured out the primary reason I like the art that I do: it reminds me of the wild places I’ve visited.

Artemis print by Sarah Frary
Artemis print by Sarah Frary

For someone who loves non-human nature as much as I do, I spend a terrifying amount of time indoors. Whether I’m typing away on the computer or sitting at my workbench, I can spend days at a stretch in the apartment. I usually have to schedule out my longer periods of outdoor time, like hiking and backpacking, which takes away a lot of the joy of spontaneity. So to help me keep my sanity, I surround myself with reminders of the world outside.

While a lot of that involves my natural history collection, like skulls and hides and such, I also have some select pieces of art, both originals and prints. Some of it is from artists I personally know; others I got at street fairs, galleries and other events, or ordered online. All of it, though, makes me intensely happy when I look at it. There are days when I’ve boosted my mood just by looking at what’s hanging on the nearest wall.

And I know that while right now I’m in great physical condition, someday there will come a time when I’m no longer capable of doing multi-day backpacking trips on the slopes of Mt. Hood, or scramble down embankments for a swim in a river. And I want the art that I collect to be my solace, in tandem with my photos and memories. I want to still feel connected to these sacred places even when I’m no longer able to go to them myself. I don’t have a lot of money for buying art, but what I do buy is part of an investment in a safe emotional space for the future.

So, let me ask you: why do you buy art? What makes you want to bring home something created by someone else’s hands?

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One of my own pieces, "Alces alces".
One of my own pieces, “Alces alces”.

4 thoughts on “Tell Me True: Why Do You Buy Art?”

  1. This is an interesting question that I haven’t thought about before. I think I buy art because I love having beautiful things, especially ones that make me feel something for them. I also prefer buying from local artists if I can, or those in the wider circle of the internet are creating things specifically by hand that have meaning to them, instead of getting mass-produced things from big stores and stuff. I like to have some sort of personal connection to the artist, even if that’s just being able to email them.

    Most of the art I have depicts plants and animals, usually ones that are native to my area. I like having a taste of nature around when I’m stuck inside all day. It’s not super purposeful; I didn’t contemplate and then decide that I want reminders of nature around me. It has just happened when I visit a booth or browse etsy, the things that really catch my eye enough to buy them are those that let me feel closer to the natural world.

    The things I have hanging on my walls right now give me a little bit of peace when I look at them, and a break from whatever I am working on or worrying about. For the non-native, just-beautiful pieces, it gives me a second to look over something again and re-discover what I liked about it. That goes for the portrayals of native animals as well, but for those there’s an extra bit of remembering my encounters with those things while hiking, or picturing the environments where I might eventually have a chance to see them.

    I also have some tails I’ve gotten from you that are also a form of art. These fit the above category of things that make me happy to look at, and since I’m in California, I’m lucky enough that all the ones I have are native here. And if it’s all right to get more personal here, I also tend to wear a couple of the tails on my belt, mainly the grey fox, raccoon and coyote, when I’m not in a professional setting. Whichever one I bring gives me a little sense of a safety net, that this is something that I’m wearing just for me. These three are also animals I associate with being very adaptable, who have an ability to survive in a wide range of environments, which helps me to remember what I can do to get through any troubling circumstances. I struggle a lot with anxiety, so having the tail to touch is very anchoring and can give me something to focus on instead of letting negative thoughts spiral out of control.

    Thank you for another insightful blog post, and good luck on all of your projects. :]

  2. I have two main reasons for purchasing art – to support an artist and to inspire a particular kind of mindset. When it comes to supporting artists, the reasons vary from them being good friends to a fondness for their unique art style. I like helping people bring more beauty into the world.

    I like having art that inspire different mindsets like a meditative mindset or creative mindset. Some images make me think of spiritual journeys like a path between snow covered trees. Other images help me generate ideas for stories. I’m a very visual person so images make a big difference in my day-to-day experience.

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