You, the Art and the Wardrobe (with apologies to C. S. Lewis)

Why would anyone ever spend money on art? It seems such an impractical thing to do. We must certainly spend money on food, clothing, shelter, a few comforts. On the other hand, artwork cannot be eaten, lived in, slept upon or driven. In fact, there does not seem to be any utilitarian purpose to art whatsoever -- unless a painting is used to cover a hole in the wall! So why do some people feel compelled to buy a painting or sculpture from time to time?

Art is unique in the way it delivers to us exclusively intangible results. While it has been said, "One picture is worth a thousand words," the reality of a picture's worth far exceeds words alone. When we look at a picture in a museum, a gallery, a book or even a magazine, more than words pour over us. Beyond simply looking at the subject of the picture, we might also be spontaneously provoked to experience feelings, entertain various thoughts, review personal memories, or walk a trail of fantasy. What's more impressive is that all of these internal byproducts of stimulation can occur -- in fact are likely to occur -- simultaneously while we merely look briefly at a visual image. When these thoughts and feelings are richly positive and their "weight" is greater than the "gold" on the other side of the scale, many individuals are compelled to buy the object that stimulates those thoughts and feelings. One collector once told me about his desire to collect art, "I love having art around me because it takes me somewhere when I look at it."

Some people spend a couple thousand dollars to return to Hawaii. Others will go to concerts a few times a year. A few days at a spa can do the trick for others. We can think of many examples of what we spend our money on to draw some form of stimulation, relaxation or entertainment. The difference in the case of buying art is that art is not something with a short life after it's purchased. Works of art can deliver fresh experiences over and over for those who own them. The practicality of buying anything in the marketplace that can fulfill its intended function for literally decades with no additional associated expense seems to outweigh just about anything else you can buy for your home. Put in these terms, it sounds as though buying art can be respected for a certain practicality after all.

As our living environments begin to take shape, the concept of "interior features" may come up. It is suggested that furnishings, wall color, window treatments, and artwork must harmonize. Color and composition are among the sometimes unspoken issues that are examined. "Will this painting 'go' with that piece of furniture?" "Can this painting 'go' in that room?" The truth of the matter is that if a painting "goes" with you then it should "go" wherever you are, physical dimensions notwithstanding. Since the common denominator in your home is you, everything in your home is hopefully a reflection of who you are and what you relate to personally. Because of this, in a very natural way, the art you choose to add to your life will inevitably harmonize with whatever you have already incorporated into your home.

And speaking specifically of the relationship between art and furniture, at least one thing should be remembered. When one enters a room they may look at a couch for only a few seconds before sitting on it. After sitting down they spend the rest of their time looking at the art in the room. Make sure what's on your walls are things you feel good about looking at -- and if the walls are blank, respect your instincts to place upon them the kind of art that matters to you. Don't be in a hurry to just throw anything up. Look around. Be selective. Trust your eye for knowing what you like. If the art that means something to you is a little beyond your cash-and-carry expectation for a single work, weigh your feelings against your gold. For the same amount of money, it's better to buy one special painting than to buy several "wall coverings" that don't move you when you look at them.

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