My mother owned a glittery pin that she used to wear in the 90s that said ‘Art Saves Lives.’ I always liked it, especially since at the time it was very tween-trendy to collect pins featuring clever sayings and places and pin them on your backpack or jean jacket (I also had one that said ‘Be careful, or we shall banish you to the Midwest!’) I still see that Art Saves Lives pin every day on the bulletin board above my desk.
We say CGN is a cheerleader of the arts, and, as many in the art world experience an unpredictable market, I have been thinking about how to better communicate why art is important in my own life as well as how to make the case for why people should actually buy it.
As art occupies more of the public space than ever, which is a positive thing, it still needs to be invested in and supported. The general points about why it’s good for individuals to buy art are because you love it, because it supports an artist, because it makes a statement, because it’s unique. However, to buy art costs money. So what justifies the financial outlay, when we are often able to enjoy images and the fruits of creativity for free at a time when many of us generally want fewer things?
There is a new generation of art collectors coming of age. Baby Boomers still make up half of art buyers, but Millennials are the fastest growing group, according to a 2018 study by US Trust. More women are also buying art, and more new collectors seek to invest in art that will appreciate, as they are more likely to sell pieces than previous generations.
Today both time and money are precious, and so is an attention span. While this rising demographic approaches a great deal of things in a more personally relevant way, how they value art may be more market–based, or even crowd–sourced as they seek to build a personal brand and rely more on data to inform their everyday lives. Millennials are also more likely to buy art online or to discover emerging artists via platforms like Instagram. They are engaged, but it may not be in person on a regular visit to a gallery.
This brings me back to why art is important to me and how art can save lives. An artist’s view of the world, seen and experienced in person through a constructed object, a performance or a concept, can be a powerful learning resource as well as a lens through which to view history or what is happening right now. A work of art can memorialize a tragedy, and it can preserve beauty; it can provide a vehicle for participating in a larger community and also connect with the past.
In this fall issue of CGN, artist Suellen Rocca shares her experiences of working with young children in museums as well as public schools. Observing the world around her informs her own art and has allowed her to help others think creatively. Art of the past also offers an ongoing and critical connection: "I believe—I’m sure many other artists do too—when an artist looks at a work of art from any period or culture and feels a connection with it, is drawn to it, it becomes a part of them and comes out in a very personal way."
Dealer Catherine Edelman has started a nonprofit after more than 30 years running her own gallery. CASE Art Fund will award biannual grants to fine art photographers who are working on humanitarian issues. Edelman believes in the power of art and says, "It is our hope that when viewers see the work in a non-traditional manner, they will stop, think, ask questions and act. We firmly believe photography can effect change."
Artist and community developer Theaster Gates opened the Stony Island Arts Bank three years ago. He is making a new community in the South Shore neighborhood while he also takes on new projects in his own artistic practice. When considering an artist's larger role in the world he says, "It’s part heart, and it’s part logistics. That’s art.’
My message to buyers entering the market is to consider why art is what is left behind once we are gone. Art is not part of a personal brand that changes with the wind. Art that survives the ages should connect us to someone or some thing. To buy a work of art is to invest in an artist’s unique talent and be able to admire and learn from it everyday.
– Ginny Van Alyea, CGN Publisher
Pictured from left: Suellen Rocca, Bareshouldered Beauty, 1965, Oil on canvas, 83 1/4 x 59 3/4 inches, 213 x 158 cm. ©️Suellen Rocca, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery; Theaster Gates at Stony Island Arts Bank with deinstalled materials from Cleveland gazebo where Tamir Rice was killed in 2016; ©️Omar Imam, CASE Art Fund artist. Courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery