People buy art for a variety of reasons.
- To project who they are or who they want to be seen by others. For instance, Roman Abramovich is buying football clubs and Lucien Freud paintings to look not like a common thug he is.
- To “own” the objects that are painted or sculpted, metaphorically. This is how Dutch still-lifes came around. This is also what happens to single men failing at the dating front. They often buy “nudes” and place them in their bedrooms because they want to own at least a painted or photographed image. Other single men, whose pick-up strategies work at least occasionally, buy “nudes” as medals of honour, and view them as a reflection of their ability to bed any “gal”. Single women rarely buy nude men, but happily go for family “idylls”. Perhaps, to scare off any man who happens to get to their bedrooms without the proper intention to get married first. It is very easy to sell paintings of children in China. Because of birth control there.
- To earn money after their art would have appreciated. As usual, that’s the kind of game when the casino pockets all the profits, that is the Saatchi kind of art dealers. It is never about art, and always about cheating oligarchs out of their money by flattering their non-existent taste. Don’t try to play it.
- To get a kick out of it, each time they look at it. This is the kind of logic I use when I buy paintings, and most normal people should, for the single reason that it makes life a tad better.
I didn’t say anything new here.
Now, who and why is buying THIS!? (paying the price of $20-25K for this fireplace)
a) people who have $20-25 000 to spend on a fireplace and
b) people who want to project the image of sophisticated art lovers towards people they know, and about whom they know that those people know this painting was done by Raphael. Now, don’t be put off by the quantity of “knows” in this sentence. It is about “I know that you know that I know Raphael, and what a smart pair of guys that makes us”.
People whose knowledge of art stretches beyond the Sistine Madonna, call it vulgar. Well, it is vulgar for them, but not for the buyers. We can laugh at them, point at them, ridicule them all we want. We can’t reach them. And you know why? They don’t want to go beyond the Sistine Madonna, they don’t want to learn or change because if they do, they feel they’d have to demolish that fireplace and feel stupid for the rest of their lives. It is difficult to admit a 25 grand investment was an uneducated error. Hm. Better stay as you are, sophisticated among idiots than become an idiot among sophisticados.
This is why the market for art that people buy because they really, really get a kick out of it, is so limited and won’t grow. To buy art you personally like – and not what you think your friends, neighbours, bosses, etc. might enjoy – takes a lot of courage. The percentage of courageous people in the total population ain’t large.
Pessimistic, am I?