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Why Do We Buy Original Art?

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Arthur Hovhannisyan - The Mountain

Internet has given us an unlimited space to display, admire and store art. Anybody can create his or her very own gallery on a blog or just save pictures on a hard drive. But a laptop screen will never replace the sensation of acquiring an art piece. There is even some science in this.

I was vehemently against the purchase of this original statuette my parents bought from a local artist in Dinan, during a trip to Brittany. I remember my brother and I complaining forever about it. I asked why would they spend that much money on something I called ugly – I think I was frightened by the darkness of the figure and its strange (in my young eyes' view) shape.

My parents loved it and brought it back. It is still in their living room, perfectly fitting among the other ethnic-styled decoration items, somewhere on top of a vinyls collection, not far from an original Amazonian Indian set of bow and arrows.

Appreciating art is what makes us human. Our brains are wired for that. According to a study published in June 2014 in the journal Brain and Cognition, looking at visual work make something happen in the part of our brain that is dedicated to inner thoughts and feelings. It triggers emotions like pleasure and fear. Other studies have also shown how we respond to shape, like the golden rectangle that is the easiest for us to process, and to colours that can make us feel the entire range of human emotions.

We do not only appreciate art: we want to own it. Brain studies have shown in the past that seeing an attractive item can trigger the part of the brain (in the cerebellum) that governs hand movements. Which means that we want to reach for things that we like. Hence the “do not touch” signs in every single gallery and museum! It brings, therefore, an incredible sentiment of satisfaction to buy an art piece that touched us. It is not about fulfilling a need, but an intense desire.

While researching for this post, I asked my mother why they chose to buy this statuette among any other things they could have brought back home. It was obviously not a classic souvenir. “I wanted something handmade and that was not out of a mould used thousands of times. Because everyone is unique”, my mother said. The unicity of an art piece is also a strong reason for people to decide to make the purchase or not.

People often spontaneously buy an original art piece because of how it provoked their thoughts and feelings. Those emotions are indeed very personal. For instance seeing red colour does not provoke the same emotions in everybody. As Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker put it in PANTONE; The Twentieth Century in Color: “We see colour with everything we are (...) Light with a wavelength of 650 nanometers or so is seen as red. But it is experienced as danger, romance or revolution, heroism or evil, depending on the cultural and personal matrix in which it appears”.

As Robert Klonovski, professor specialist of the art market, wrote, “the art we buy is as much about who we are as it is about the artists who create it”. Unless one buys with the goal of selling later for a higher price, which is another topic.

This way, the statuette I hated touched my parents so strikingly because it corresponded not only to their taste but also to their philosophy in life. They were captivated by how it was made and the artist's statement, like the use of recycled parts. “The art makes its owner feel good or better about themselves whenever they look at it”, further wrote Robert Klonovski.

Buying an art piece is never an individual, cold gesture. It is an entire story, deep and full of sentiments, between the artist, the buyer and the people who will see the art after that. When they buy original art, people can keep it for themselves to enjoy the bond created between the artists and the owner through the art work. They can also display it for others to see as a way of sharing with friends and visitors something that touches them so deeply, or as a trophy, a proof of taste and success.

In any case, it is an open window into someone's feelings and passions. Nothing will tell more about yourself than the original painting you will buy here with Artbeep (or anywhere else) and hang on your wall.

IMAGE: Arthur Hovhannisyan - The Mountain (2014, Oil on Canvas, 90x130 cm)

Marion Dautry is freelance journalist, who has been a correspondent in the Balkans for La Tribune de Genève (Switzerland) and La Croix (France) from October 2015.