For many middle-class households in North America and other relatively affluent parts of the world, this might seem like a strange question, but it shouldn't be. "Oh", someone will answer, "You mean like that Van Gogh calendar I bought last December for my office." No, that's not what I mean. I'm talking about the actual purchase of quality original art, something that would likely be cherished and handed down from generation to generation for many years to come.
In times past, it was only a tiny portion of any given society that could afford to patronize professional artists- the church, the State, and the ruling aristocracy. These are the institutions and individuals who kept artists like Rembrandt and Monet in groceries.
Today, though, there is an unprecedented opportunity for regular, middle-class people to directly support artists through the purchase of their work. Many emerging and regionally well-known artists have original work that can be bought for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. This is in the price range of a new entertainment system for the den or a used motorcycle for those occasional weekend rides. Few people have even thought of spending that same disposable income on an original painting or sculpture, even though twenty years from now the bike or stereo system will likely be either a pile of rust or hopelessly obsolete. The piece of art, though, will be as fresh and valuable as the day it was bought and, in a few cases, may even rise in value with the growing reputation of its creator. Original art has a richness and subtlety of color and texture that can never be fully duplicated in a reproduction. It will surprise you as it changes in appearance with every change in intensity and quality of light where it is displayed. And, good art brings added meaning to our lives, whether through the raising of thought-provoking questions or simply a greater appreciation of the beauty the world has to offer.
So, if you are one of the many people who could potentially afford to be an owner of fine art, consider adding a new category as you develop next year's household budget. Put aside a little each month and, meanwhile, start seeking out art wherever and whenever you have the opportunity. Find a favorite artist or two that is within your price range and follow their work, whether in person or on their web site. When you've saved up some pennies and see a piece that really moves you, start or add to your collection. Or, if you have a particular subject or wall space in mind, discuss a possible commission with the artist.
Art will take on a whole new meaning in your life if you take an active part in the artist/patron cycle that allows great art to be created. And, who knows, you may even be in on the developing career of a modern master.
Karl Eric Leitzel - LAI Founder and Director
(This essay may be reproduced with appropriate credit.)
web site by Karl Eric Leitzel