There are lots of people in the art world who love to keep art shrouded in mystery.
They do this partly because they know that the less YOU know about art, the more you'll have to rely on THEM. This is usually where their fee structure enters the picture. If you want knowledge, access and guidance, you'll have to pay them. Yes, it's always about money ... and rarely, if ever, about transparency.
Along those lines, I'm sitting here in the car shop getting some work done on my car. Tire sensor replacement. Nothing big. 60 bucks. I've had my SUV for more than eight years and with every passing mile, it's declining in value. Great vehicle, but one day it'll be worth nearly nothing. It may be there now.
Actually, don't they say that the very instant you buy a car and drive it off the dealer lot that it drops by about 25% in value ... if not more?
When you think about it, nearly everything we'll purchase in this life loses value almost immediately: cars, clothing, computers, televisions, jewelry and even houses when we don't keep them up.
It's like the ultimate in bait and switch. Whatever we buy holds great value for us. In fact, it's extremely valuable to us, but that value erodes and it's often not as desirable to someone else. That's largely due to personal taste and of course, wear and tear. That's just how life works. As they say, "one man's trash is another man's treasure."
I think this remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to contemporary art. People think they're supposed to buy art ONLY because it'll increase in value. Look, I agree. When I buy art, I try to make sure that I'm buying from truly talented, professional and committed artists who have websites. Websites are a sign of professionalism. Many artists don't have gallery representation, which is fine, but they'd better be driven to succeed as artists. This is very important. The last thing I want to do is buy art from someone whose just painting as a hobby. Nothing wrong with that, but I am indeed looking for true value.
Now, having said that, I think it's very important to remember that if you love art and you're not just an investor, you really need to buy art based on what it's personally worth to YOU. Buying art is ultimately like buying anything else that appeals to you. If you love it and feel a soulful connection that says, "I gotta have it!" AND you can afford it, then BUY it. You'd do the same thing with a car or pair of designer shoes. Why not with art?
And by the way, just so some folks don't get their knickers in a bunch, I am not comparing art to a car or pair of designer shoes. I've just provided you with a simple illustration to make a point.
The fact that you love the art and that it's the work of a truly talented, committed and professional artist are what give the art its true value. Art dealers and advisors are fantastic and quite capable of helping you select works that will likely increase in value, but this shouldn't be your ONLY consideration when buying art. Remember, art dealers and advisors also LOVE art. That's why they do what they do. Of course, business MUST be their primary consideration or they won't be in business for very long. Still, they also must love what they sell. Otherwise, they could just sell used cars ... or shall I say, "certified, pre-owned vehicles?" Does that term truly boost their declining value? I think it's a smoke and mirrors thing.
So what's art worth? It's worth exactly what everything else you buy is worth. It's worth your time, it's worth that long month you spent racking up overtime to save money to buy something you really love and want, it's worth whatever you're willing to do (hopefully legal and moral) to have it. In short, it's worth whatever you're deciding you're actually going to pull out your card and pay for it.
But here's something else...
Art is worth the happy memories that it conjures up for you. Art is worth the peace of mind it gives you. Art is worth that smile that crosses your face when you look at it. Art is worth the "Wow!" that comes out of your mouth the very first time you see it. Art is worth the tears that you didn't know were flowing until someone comes up and asks, "Are you okay?"
Art is worth everything and art is worth nothing. It all depends.
For me personally, art is everything. Why else would I spend so much free time writing about it for so little apparent return? Yet I also know that like everything, art won't likely last forever. Like it or not, art is biodegradable. Despite our best efforts at preservation, it will come and eventually go. That makes it even more precious ... in the moment.
Isn't that all the more reason to consider art ... one of the best things ever? I mean, come on, no precious car or pair of designer shoes ever created could compare to that.