Much has been speculated about why people collect art. Philosophers, anthropologists and art historians have all proffered their own accounts of why we commit our time, money and walls to the curation of art. At their cores however, all their answers drill back to connection. Put simply, if humans are driven by the desire to connect, then art is one powerful transmitter.
Connect to yourself
It is near impossible to sit down and explain with the depth we desire who we are. Instead, we imperfectly communicate ourselves through action and conversation. With art however, what we value can be explored in more nuanced ways. Collecting art can help tell our life story without prescribing who we are. As writer Thomas Merton once said,
"art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”.
Connect to your family
Like all forms of learning, encountering art starts with a human exchange. Most likely, your first experience with art was mediated by your family; maybe a relative left the family a significant painting, mum encouraged you to draw or dad took you to the gallery.
As adults, art becomes even more entrenched in our families. We buy it as a gift for our partners and children and use it as a way to memorialize milestones. Soon enough, these objects become central to the evolution of a house into a family home. And finally, in the life we leave, art takes on the status of heirloom, forging new inter-generational bonds.
Form and find new bonds
Collecting art is a key way to engage with culture and history. Whether your interest lies in the preservation of history or in forging a new culture, art can be your champion.
Critically, this engagement isn’t one-way; collectors play a crucial role in the flourishing of art. When a work is passed between collectors, its social value is bolstered and new interpersonal histories are uncovered. Plus, by investing in particular works of art, you attract like-minded people. There is many-a-moment when two strangers meet across an adored canvas.
If art can deepen shared bonds, it can also bridge gaps between understanding. Evading the didactic in favour of nuance, art has an unparalleled ability to explore new perspectives. In these ways, collectors employ art as a portal between themselves and the world – transmitting their values and finding new ones.