Make Your Art Work For You: art as a tool for self-fulfilment
Updated: Jun 16
Have your ever heard the saying, ‘don’t work for money, let money work for you’ ? It has become a fashionable catchphrase and simply put it is a call to stop thinking about money as something finite that you can only get in direct exchange for hours of your precious time. Instead, we need to be thinking about how we can get money to work for us and how you invest your money becomes essential and central to escaping this stagnant exchange of time for money. Here’s an example: as soon as you receive your monthly pay check, instead of instead of simply buying things that you like because they’re beautiful, or because they’re this month’s fashionable must have item, or because that advert covertly promised ‘if you buy this then you will feel a million dollars’, you invest your money only in things that will further your specific goals.
'Buy this bag, and you'll 'bag' that brooding well-dressed man'
Here's an example: if one of my goals was to rediscover the level of fitness I had at school, after years of sedentary jobs and low motivation, because I want that clearer more focused feeling and to feel good in my body - instead of buying that beautiful fashionable new it-bag that I saw last week, I would go to an inspirational activewear brand and invest a significant portion of my pay check in proper active wear. Spending my money on sportswear that is highly functional and makes me feel great whilst working out, simultaneously empowers my decision to get fit and over time gets me to a new place where I am clear minded and I have the energy to make my dreams happen. Instead, habitually spending my money on instant gratification items keep me stuck in a low energy, evasive relationship with what I really want in life, long term.
So it’s simple, I want both items, I can either spend my money on scenario A or B - but one is working for my money, and one is making my money work for me. One is a dead end; I get the bag, I enjoy it for a while and it gives me an initial boost but then it loses it’s shine, I stop seeking it in the wardrobe and I forget about it. The other is a significant initial investment for long term gain, and reaps payoffs that keep on giving from that one initial investment. And when you look at it like that, well the decision is clear.
Scenario B - the road to self-fulfilment
So, how on earth could this relate to art? I hear you say! Well it’s simple, let’s start with an overview: speaking in general, in recent years art has become more and more a part of the mass market. This is a highly positive outcome as art is increasingly widely available and significantly more of us have the opportunity to build our own art collections. But what one might say is the 'price' of art being available in this way is that it is often being bought and sold in a similar way to other mass market products - on hype and perceived value which is largely dependant on questionable promises and what other people are seen to be buying. Today, we see this practise manifested in rehearsed and calculated sales techniques heard in many commercial galleries, and indeed regularly across the entire retail sector, ‘At present the task of the gallery dealer is to convince the client that a given work has a special kind of prestige: public but elusive, tangible yet confusing for the uninitiated’*. These techniques are used to lure, persuade and cajole buyers into purchasing products sometimes completely independently of what they might actually like or need. Key here is that we are debating the way in which these products are sold, not whether or not they are of high quality or sincere craftsmanship. Put bluntly, salesmanship that is focused predominantly on selling artworks on the basis of what other people are doing and thinking is not conducive to ensuring that the inner needs of individual clients are met with their artwork purchases.
We should be treated as individuals not just a unit in the crowd of the mass market.
So we have more people with more spending power who see value in having an art collection, but so many meet with situations, whether in a stand alone gallery or on the online art market that are barely conducive to assisting them in getting true value out of the artworks for sale, where artworks aren’t carefully matched to the individual buyer. So what we end up with is many soon-to-be disappointed clients who buy an artwork on the back of a rehearsed sales process and/or hype, that get an initial boost, but then their artwork loses its shine because it isn’t adding anything to their lives in the form of tangible ongoing investment payoffs. It may be a very attractive object and contain a lot of inherent value, but if it’s aesthetic qualities and inherent value potential haven’t been sufficiently matched to the needs of the individual buying it, it was never going to be a good long term investment for that individual. Just like the it-bag at the beginning of this article, artworks bought in this way are often forgotten about and eventually they may even stop being looked at and relegated to the attic. We are living in a world of fast fashion, in the midst of a rife throwaway culture and we see art being caught up in that mess and it’s devastating because art can in fact be a very powerful human tool.
"To look at oneself in a mirror, trying to calibrate, trying to understand who you are or at least who you are not" CALIBRATION by Paolo Di Rosa
Art has been used throughout human history as a tool of self-realisation that can ‘…guide, exhort and console its viewers, enabling them to become better versions of themselves’* art and culture can truly offer support to us in our lives as a source of self-help for our innermost problems, the problems of the soul and it is a vehicle through which we can get on the path to fulfilling our innermost desires and reaching our biggest life goals. Yes really! It can be that powerful! But if we buy art in the same way that we buy the new fad or interior design obsession- there is no way that we will be able to access all this value that is contained in the sphere of art and culture.
That too often seen scenario of clients ‘working for their art collection’ needs to be replaced with the scenario we want - ‘let art work for you’, and that can be art you buy for your own collection, public art, and art you visit in national galleries - all art can be made to work for you, all you need is a different approach. But what is that approach? We will begin opening this out here, but we’ll also be dedicating more articles to this subject in the following weeks. But a good place to begin is by protecting yourself against buying or being sold something against your better judgement, so avoiding buying anything that makes questionable short term promises and/or isn’t consistent with your own needs or long term aspirations.
Secondly, it’s also important to first rediscover what art can really do for us so that we can make more informed choices, so in the meantime begin by having a look at our recent article on ‘The Seven Functions of Art’ grounded in the work of renowned philosopher Alain de Botton and esteemed philosopher art historian John Armstrong.
Lastly for today, nobody’s pretending that mastering anything that you’re new to or unsure of, including successfully building an art collection, doesn’t involve some form of education and a guiding hand. I am not suggesting that art consultants and dealers are obsolete, the opposite in fact. But what we are calling for is a change in the processing of buying and selling where the dealer ‘…would operate as a matchmaker, bringing together an inner need of the client with a work best able to assuage it’*. There is no doubt that art needs its experts, its champions and its connoisseurs to clarify, to inform and to draw art collectors’ and the public’s attention to the reasons why art is valuable to the individual. Indeed, if you want to build an art collection that is authentically ‘you’ you need to get sure about what you are looking for and why and you can achieve that through the lens of a renewed and informed perspective on art, and with an art consultant who is specifically motivated to empower you to make informed choices that are rooted in your individuality, your dreams and aspirations. Because only an artwork bought in this way, an art collection built in this way, is an authentic initial investment you make in your present, towards self-fulfilment in your future.
FELICITÀ / Happiness by Paolo Di Rosa
Copyright © 2019 (text excluding quotations) Zoë Atkinson Fiennes
* quotations taken directly from Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and Robert Armstrong
Copyright © Paolo Di Rosa