Obviously as a working artist, I'm biased: I think everyone should have original art on their walls.
Now, there's nothing wrong with owning art reproductions. If you want to look at a Van Gogh or Cezanne on a daily basis, commercial reproductions are probably your only choice unless you work in a major art gallery or you're an international art thief.
Personally I long for a reproduction of this Ian Hamilton Finlay work.
This print has haunted me for years. I'll probably never be able to afford an original, limited edition, signed print but if I can find a reproduction, I'd be quite happy. I just want it on my wall because it inspires me.
However, as a general rule, I prefer to buy original art and here's why...
You get to feel smug
When you buy original art, you own something unique or in the case of a limited edition print, rare.
Not for you that instantly recognisable Ikea print; your walls and shelves contain art that your friends and neighbours don’t have. Let’s face it, we humans are a competitive bunch and there’s a certain kudos to owning something less run of the mill. It may be shallow but it's a major reason why people buy art.
Owning art brings joy into your life. I don’t pay attention to my small art collection every single day but there’s not a week goes by that I don’t suddenly notice one of the pieces I own and get a sudden surge of visual pleasure.
Although I obviously love the works themselves, I also take pleasure in the sense of connection that it gives me with the artist, especially if I've met them. There's something very special about having a tiny slice of someone else's creative life in your home: it's inspiring.
You're supporting artists
Buying contemporary art directly supports artists. When you buy someone's work, you’ve made a very positive difference to that artist’s life. You’ve put food on their table, shoes on their kid’s feet or paid their gas bill. In short, you’ve allowed them to carry on creating – way to go, you Patron of The Arts, you!
Even if you buy the work of dead artists, you're usually supporting a small businesses - with a few larger exceptions, most commercial galleries and auction houses are fairly small, locally owned businesses.
The passion of collecting
Collecting art can be a huge buzz – many collectors love the seductive aspect of falling in love with a new piece or the thrill of buying at auction. Like any other kind of collector, art collectors can get very passionate about their pursuit of art.
There are people out there for whom buying art is a major lifestyle choice - they visit art fairs, go to galleries when they're on holiday and obsessively plan what they're going to buy. It's their hobby. But I'm not like that and you don't have to be either - most art collections start very simply with a single piece of art bought on impulse.
Original art is worth more
There are some caveats to this. I don't recommend buying art for investment purposes - it's just too chancy. The art market is erratic and even if you've got a good 'eye', there's no way of telling who's going to make it. Even if you do buy a piece of art that's going to rise in value, it may not happen in your lifetime. Still, there's always the chance that you'll get lucky and the artist's prices will rise dramatically: that's not going to happen with your Ikea poster.
There are a few exceptions: things like original film posters or old socialist posters can be a good investment. Old posters are very collectable at the moment and they can be lovely to have on your walls as classic examples of graphic art or Hollywood kitsch. Of course the key words here are 'original' and 'old' - it's the increasing scarcity of the original posters that's pushing up the price. Newer reproductions of these posters aren't going to appreciate in value any time soon. However, they are a good example of something that was originally mass produced which now has a value greater than some of the one-off pieces of art from the same period. It's possible that your Ikea poster may be worth something eventually but rest assured that it's not going to happen in your lifetime because there are just too many of them out there.
Don't be scared!
Unfortunately a lot of people are scared of buying original art. They worry that they don't have the experience to choose art. They're scared that they'll be judged by others for what hangs on their walls and they'll have to justify their tastes. They think it will be too expensive or that it’s something that only posh middle-class people do.
The reality is that starting an art collection is not as difficult and expensive as many people think. Even with a very limited budget, you can have an original art collection. Obviously if it’s a choice between food and art, you should buy the food but if you’ve got a small discretionary budget, you can afford something more unique than that Ikea print.
In the next post I'll show you how to get comfortable with buying original art.
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Why do you buy art? Does it matter to you if it's an original or not? Let's hear your thoughts...