Recently, someone posed this question to me. It made me wonder how would society function. Would business be based on a barter system? As an artist, that system might work out better for me. Especially when art is currently looked at as a commodity. Some people think of art as a piece of stock and watch it religiously to see how much its gone up in value. And it should never be appraised for less.
With the downturn in the economy its been interesting watching how collectors approach art. I like to break collectors into three categories: investment, decorative, and supportive. Collectors can be none, one, two, or all three descriptions and in no particular order.
Investment collectors look at art only as an asset. Liking the aesthics isn’t top priority but the return is what matters. They want to buy the art for price A and sell the art for at least three times price A. They usually have a person that they trust that points them in the right direction of the “hottest” artist on the market. This person could be a gallery owner, business partner, or friend that has recently added the artist to their investment portfolio. Rarely does an artist meet the investment collector.
Decorative collectors look at art only as element to enhance their surroundings. Investment might not be top priority but how it looks in their home is more important. Color and/or compositional elements that match with their surroundings is key. Artists sometimes meet the decorative collector during a studio visit.
Supportive collectors find an artist they love and help them throughout their careers. The art becomes a part of the family and they are proud at every step the artist makes in their careers. They brag to family and friends at each stage of success. Also, they genuinely care about the welfare and status of the artist. Artists generally become friends with the supportive collector and often socialize with them.
Of course, I’m using humor and a dash of cynicism to generalize. However, there will always be an exception to the rule but this is what I’ve encountered being an artist. If we removed money from art, how would the world be different? Would it survive and still be a commodity people would want? I don’t know for sure but it’s fun to speculate. There are a few things I would trade for my art. Any takers?