People collect art for many different reasons. The most common reasons include decoration, social approval, investment appreciation and esthetic significance.
Unsophisticated buyers may confuse decoration with art. Our culture is deeply involved with color, texture and form. Artists of many persuasions work with images, which have significant decorative content. Collectors take into consideration the decorative aspect of artwork. They have multiple layers of motivation; decorative features represent only one layer of interest.
Some collectors acquire art primarily as investments that they expect will increase in value. We’ve all heard the success stories of astute or lucky collectors who acquired works at low prices and later realized extraordinary gains. Works of art appreciate over the long term only if they are excellent.
The best collectors acquire art for its esthetic significance. These collectors discover and develop themselves through their collections; they acquire art as a means of expanding, enriching and cultivating their personality. This is similar to artists who are often seeking to enhance their own identity in their work.
Successful art collectors have sound esthetic justifications for their acquisition decisions. Only esthetics is intrinsic to artwork and the artwork must be good artistically. Artistic merit cannot properly be measured by the approval of others or by the promise of capital gains.
Art collectors are not all the same. They have different esthetic responses to art. Color, surface and form are most significant to some art collectors. Others relate esthetic qualities to contextual issues such as subject matter or historical reference. Still others are concerned with the intellectual or emotional impact of the work.
The collector’s esthetic bias and level of development will influence purchasing decisions. The artwork collected will help define and direct the collector’s further artistic development. Collectors differ considerably in their interests and tastes, but they all try to select the finest works in their chosen fields and they often look for works and artists that have been overlooked by others.
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