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.
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?