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What is ‘Art’? Why do People Collect it?

What is Art?

Are you imagining white-walled galleries? How about rich women in pearls buying a sculpture worth your entire college education? Traditionally art is divided into categories of Sculpture, Painting, Printing and Drawing. These distinctions have been kept in place securely for thousands of years, until recent developments occurred that blurred these archaic rules before completely smashing them apart.

Paul Cezanne, the influential French Painter claimed that a ‘work of art which not begin in emotion is not art’. He was a heartfelt and highly talented painter, whose style and ideas shaped the course of painting forever, so his voice is worth listening to. At its core, his statement is saying that an artwork has to come from a personal place, it needs to have guts and integrity and the artist must be passionate and sincere about their subject. He repeatedly painted the same mountain in southern France throughout his entire life, and it became one of the most widely recognized motifs of his work.

Leo Tolstoy, although he wrote rather than sculpted or painted, shared a similar opinion, saying that a great work of art clearly translates an emotion. In other words, a work of art allows you to feel or empathize with the way that someone else sees and understands the world. People use the phrase that an artwork ‘can speak to you’. This means that when you look at a certain piece, something stirs inside, capturing your attention without you knowing exactly why. The same can be said of a song that you love. Think of one of your favorites for example. You enjoy the lyrics, the style, the sound, the atmosphere and you appreciate the talent. When all those different aspects are combined, the piece of music still has something extra, it is more than the sum of its parts. A painting, print, drawing or sculpture can be understood in the same way. An artwork may grab you because you enjoy the colors, the materials, the subject, the ingenuity, the style or the concept, but if it has that indescribable something extra, then that is special.


There are also recurring elements that can help to identify a work of art within these traditional genres:

The Composition determines how the different parts of the work are put together, why is one object in one place and not in another? How do these elements balance and harmonize the overall work? The style, often developed and refined over many years of practice, helps to distinguish an artwork as the work of a particular artist, a bit like a visual signature. The color palette can assist in achieving a certain mood or reference to a subject. Yves Klein, another French artist even went a step further and invented his own color called International Klein Blue (or IKB) to mark him out from the crowd and distinguish his work.

What techniques is the Artist using to get their point across?

Another tip that is worth remembering if you are deciding for yourself whether something is a work of Art or not, is to try and judge it on the artists terms. What do you think they trying to say? If you take photorealism for example, this is a type of art where the artist attempts to create something that resembles as closely as possible the subject as it might appear in a photograph. It is a drawn or painted photograph in a sense. It is sometimes assumed that the more a work of art ‘looks’ like its subject, the better it is, but that is simply not true.

Pablo Picasso could draw in this way by the time he was 14. He outgrew it and developed his own visual language. He was a pioneer and constantly pushed himself to find new ways to represent the world around him in paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures. If you were to look at some of his most iconic paintings of people, they cannot be judged by how much they ‘look’ like their subjects in a photorealistic way. They often have fragmented, elongated limbs, wild colours and abstract, twisted bodies, yet they describe perfectly the personality and emotions of that individual. The relationship between the artist and the person can be understood, and so much more is offered. He paints in this way not because he is unable to make them appear as they would in a photograph, but because he can say much more if he doesn’t.

In a sense he alters what we think we see in order to create a more truthful description of the world around us. ‘Artistic License’ is a phrase used when artists distort and rearrange the subjects of their artworks to achieve a certain effect. The reason for this can be summed up by the quote that ‘Artists use lies to tell the truth’.

Why do people collect Art?

This is a fascinating question because there is no one clear answer. There are many factors, but at the end of the day, you can collect art for any reason you choose.  It is up to you!

We talked earlier about an artwork speaking to you, of having something to say that you like, that makes you feel something and inspires you in any sense of the word. This is the core reason to buy a work of art, because you never have to justify that feeling to anyone else. If you have a personal connection with a work of Art, then that is enough, even if no one else around you likes it and cannot understand why you do.

Art Gallery

Art as an investment

Art is also one of the most secure investment markets in the world and collecting art is a highly enjoyable experience. Spotting up and coming artists can be challenging, entertaining and lucrative!

People collect Art to brighten up their home, to remind themselves of a particular place or person or subject, to inspire, to challenge themselves intellectually. But there is no correct way to collect or appreciate art. Art is about expression, and everyone has something to say.

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