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What is art good for anyway?

I think the experiencing, exploring and enjoying of art is about personal growth. I tend to focus on contemporary abstraction.

I want to deal with art that is challenging, art that encourages me to grow and to discover new things about myself.

As a dealer, I look for art that I identify with, art that moves me. I am not very interested in presenting art that somebody else happens to think is "hot" at a given moment. I prefer long term relationships with artists and art.

There are many reasons to acquire art or to just experience it - some of this is obviously guided by economic decisions. I have been an art dealer for a long time now, and I want to try to list some of the reasons people buy art from us.

1. Most people acquire art because they want something on their walls. They want something that reflects who they are, and something they enjoy and expect to enjoy for a long time.

2. Many people buy art because they truly love the piece in question and just can't live without it. My favorite sale happened way back in the 70's when a girl, who must have been a college student was walking past my gallery on her way to buy a mattress. Something in the gallery caught her eye, and she went right up to an etching that was priced at $100. She looked at it for about half an hour and then walked over and explained that she was on her way to buy a mattress, but she would forego the mattress if we would sell her the etching. I was impressed. She went on to explain that she didn't have much money and could she pay off the $100 over 10 months. Well, we said yes, and by the time the second month rolled around we let her take the art home and those ten dollar checks rolled in punctually around the first of each month. But I still wonder what she slept on.

3. Many people buy art to decorate. Ooops, I think that has become a bad word, but the fact is that by the creative use of art in one's home, or work place, you can make a statement. Context is important. Hang one painting by itself, you have a certain relationship between you and the art. Now add another painting and the dynamic changes. The two pieces have a dialogue - a relationship. Not only do you become a witness, but a participant. Switch the two pieces and the dynamic changes. Make a decision about which looks better where and you have made an artistic statement. Add more works to the equation and the statement changes. You are actively participating in the art experience. A lot of people find this fun and personally rewarding and are on the prowl for art to add to the equation.

4. Fun. Art can be a lot of fun. It can be serious and somber too, as well as cathartic or stimulating. Personal growth is all of the above. Other art forms, theater/dance/literature/movies/etc do this too, but they all do it differently from one another and we all have our preferences. I know I grow more by experiencing good art than anything else and it is more fun for me too.

5. The Vicarious Thing. Many of us, when we acquire contemporary art, also feel like we have entered into a partnership with the artist. We are proud when the artist has a gallery exhibit and even more proud when he or she has a museum show or when a work sells for some impressive price at auction. It is not too different from the feeling one gets about a successful, local sports team.

6. Art as an Investment. Some people do buy art from us because they think it is a good investment. It continually surprises me that people still think this way. It rarely ever has been true. I think art is a safe place to put one's money. You can usually get back about what you paid for it, or slightly more (with the kind or art I sell), but that doesn't make it a good investment, and it tends to invalidate the first 5 reasons. The problem is that if you start out with the notion of art being an investment you are not primarily interested in the art for personal growth or personal response, but with the idea of someone else's response at some nebulous time in the future. This is an ok way to buy stocks and bonds, but sure tends to strip the art of its potential for growth and meaning. (Buying art you love, not as an investment but from passion, and then seeing it increase in value and deciding to sell it, is a whole other story.)

Conclusion: Not sure there is one. I have not presented any very complete ideas here, but maybe it will stimulate some questions. Maybe some of you will share your experiences about living with art. Maybe some artists would like to volunteer why they make art.

I look forward to hearing from you.


KLEIN ART WORKS    400 North Morgan Chicago, IL 60622    (312) 243-0400