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Imagine your favorite band only played each album in public for a month. Then the songs were sold off to individuals never to be heard again except by those lucky few. To a large degree, this is how the art market operates. It is also why exhibitions are such a special and rarified affair. For a short period of time, we get to see a whole body or series of works by a particular artist. The chance of seeing those works together again is almost zero. This is especially important considering that the artists themselves often create these units of work as a thought process. We are lucky that Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" wasn't chopped up and sold off to collectors like we do with art. I can't even think of "In the Wee Small Hours" by Frank Sinatra as separate songs..
For the most part, artwork resides in either the hands of artists or their patrons. If you have bought original artwork, you are a Patron! Art shown in museums or institutional galleries are those special, rarified works that have been donated or purchased for their importance. Even works in the possession of these locations are largely in storage. We the public only see a tiny fraction of art holdings in the world. Art Exhibitions are your unique chance to see something special: a crafted body of expression by a particular artist or group.
Obviously, every exhibition won't be your cup of tea. Just like not everyone loves Nickelback, some artists and styles are going to reflect your tastes better than others. When the time comes that you see something that piques your interest, don't think twice. RSVP for that exhibition. Buy Tickets. Put it on your calendar. Get a sitter. And go experience that once in a lifetime moment.
The answer to the question of why to purchase original art doesn’t often seem straightforward. It’s a lot of money and commitment to hang something original on the wall. There is an indelible energy to original art that can’t be readily transferred in a re-creation or a print. But in the end, the answer of why to purchase a piece of art is very clear: it speaks to you.
I know that this has happened to you before. It may not have been an original piece of art. It may have been a piece of music that made you want to dance. It might have been a novel that completely changed your mind. You may have been simply touched by a photograph in the newspaper. You cut it out and hung it to your office bulletin board or added it to your playlist.
Original art is an amplified experience. It will take that connection and make it part of your habitat. It has been imbued with the artist’s expression of nuance and feeling that is not available in a facsimile or print. In the best cases, photos or prints will completely understate a piece. In the worst cases, they will change them completely.
I have experienced this effect hundreds of times by now. Artists endeavor to show me an iPad rendition of their portfolio as they look for gallery representation. Occasionally you can tease out a detail or two to see some skill. Mostly the art looks flat and blended. The colors are muted and inconsequential. The photography of original artwork is a game of attrition. As a print buyer, you are getting a far lesser version of the original, in the best of cases. For some incredible works, it is still worth it.
Find that piece that speaks to you. It will make your whole life richer.