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As an artist I am always preaching the value of art and why people should spend some of their hard earned money on it. But to be honest, I hardly ever buy it myself. It’s just not in my budget. I’ve bought a few inexpensive prints over the years, and I’ve also traded my own work with artist friends, so I do have art in the house that isn’t mine. That said, I saw a painting online a few weeks ago and decided to put my money where my mouth is. It’s a small and fantastic painting, and it cost me a (relatively) large sum of money, more money than I get for my own work. There certainly are many other things I could, and some might say should, have spent that money on: credit card bills, mortgage, utilities, car payments, food. Why did I buy it? I bought it because I really wanted it. I rationalized the purchase by thinking it was a meaningful thing to do as an artist, but that was just an excuse.  I bought it because it made me feel something and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

You work hard for your money, and you spend some of it on things that you do not need. You don’t need to go to an NFL stadium to watch a football game. You also don’t need to go to a concert to hear your favorite song. You don’t need to buy those ski lift passes either. You don’t need to go out to that restaurant. You don’t even need that third Mochaccino latte of the day. You can watch the football game on television. You can listen to that song whenever and wherever you want on your smartphone. You can also watch downhill skiing videos, cooking shows and you can certainly make your own cup of coffee. You choose to do the actual things because they’re more fun in real life. These are in-depth, physical experiences, not stuff, and not imitations. You are making large, happy deposits in the memory bank.

Looking at art doesn’t cost anything. You can go online and with a few keystrokes, see almost every piece of serious art ever created and photographed. With some additional effort, you can go to a commercial gallery, admire the work, and leave satisfied with the experience. If you go to a museum it might cost you the price of admission, unless you don’t mind crowds and go on a free day. There you can admire artwork you most likely could never afford, works that are spectacular examples of our human heritage. And if it’s a contemporary art museum it’ll probably be work that is un-ownable in a traditional sense anyway. So, like going to a game, a live concert, skiing and dining out, the experience of seeing original art is what is giving you the most pleasure.  But the question remains, why spend good money on owning art?

Great art is different than other objects. Once you start looking, you’ll discover that great art is an experience itself. It’s an experience that is completely embodied in an object. Original art, seen in real life, reveals itself over time. It comes at you slowly, the longer you spend looking at it. Often you’ll see people in museums crowd together in front of a painting by Van Gogh or some other famous artist, quickly snap a selfie and move on to the next icon of civilization. They are missing out. It’s like they are at the football game playing Angry Birds on their phones. Art can take your breath away, make you cry, make you laugh, make you angry or just make you wonder. Visiting a museum is fantastic; it’s like going to a concert to hear music. Sure, hanging a poster in your house is like listening to your stereo, but hanging the actual painting is like having that musician there to sing to you whenever you want, again and again, forever.

So why buy art? You buy it because you want it and it makes you happy. Discovery and joy are the foremost reasons why you should consider the possibility of maybe, just maybe buying art. The search is educational, enlightening, exciting, frustrating, and fun. You’ll make new friends, share stories, have arguments, and see the world in new ways, and all this before even buying anything!

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