It’s Our Own Damn Fault More People Aren’t Collecting Art

From the archives of when Chicago Art Magazine’s Founder and Publisher Kathryn Born was at the helm of the Chicago Now blog. This post was originally published on October 14th, 2009.

Lisa Boumstein-Smalley
Gallery Director Chicago Art Source Gallery

Original artwork by Geoffry Smalley

Finding encouraging news about the number of people collecting art (even when the economy is good) is comparable to finding a Chicagoan without an opinion on pizza. So when the economy is screwed up, even more galleries close and artists scramble to pull their resources together. My question is, and I am not the first person to ask it…Why aren’t more people collecting art?!

As a person who lives for theories to evolve into epiphanies, here are a couple of ideas:

Pure intimidation—Most people get their information from TV and movies. Gallery owners and
artists are portrayed in movies, flighty space heads, or maudlin self-loathing social dweebs. I will be the first to say that there is some truth to those caricatures, but it’s the art community’s responsibility to say bullshit to this and behave differently. Fact is, if you want your work to be a part of a private collection, then you have to SELL it –THAT means it’s a (gasp) business!!! When I am put off by a jerk at a restaurant, clothing store, or nail salon- I DON’T GO BACK. It’s real simple, really it is.

Recreational Research!?!!—If a good-standing citizen woke up one day and realized that they couldn’t live any longer with the white walls in their home, and they wanted to do a little Google research on how to start collecting art, here is what they might find:

1. Get on gallery mailing lists so you’ll be invited to openings and special events. *
2. Attend National and International Art Fairs and Art Expos whenever possible. *
3. Talk to people in the art business to learn how to decipher genuine and fake works of art.**
4. Read art magazines and art history books to increase your knowledge. **
5. Never purchase art on impulse. Do your homework first! **

From ikea.com. Motif created by Jane Ormes

Seriously, no wonder people shop at IKEA for wall décor. I mean, people should do some research like anything else – compare digital cameras, cars, houses- but we shouldn’t impregnate the idea of buying art (which should be fun) with fear because it is just wrong and counterproductive. Warning people of fakes and forgeries builds mistrust, which honestly keeps people away from galleries. And pushing the social agenda isn’t what someone is looking for when they want to BUY art; it’s only a possible byproduct.

It’s our own damn fault that more people aren’t collecting art. I choose to embrace the fact that it’s not easy for some people to get over the intimidation hump, and that truly they want to have cool/beautiful/smart/evocative artwork on their walls without getting roped into a huge involvement of the artist community. I am confident that we can do better as a community because when a pedestrian turns into a first time collector, everybody wins. That’s a beautiful thing.