Updated: Dec 5, 2020
“Why buy art?” was the initial impetus for this article. But researching it, I found many articles on the subject and thought I’d turn it around and look at what it would be like to NOT have art. So, drawing on the research of other bloggers and my own expertise, what would the world be like without visual art?
The economic impact might be larger than people realize. There is the direct income to a local economy from the income/spending and taxes of artists themselves. Beyond this, art is a draw for businesses to locate in a community, so with no art business growth could be curtailed. Art stores, galleries, and museums would disappear, so there would be fewer businesses to again provide income/spending and taxes in the community, as well as less entertainment. Also, tourism would be reduced, so business income to the hospitality/leisure industries would be lowered. Some individuals purchase art as an investment, hoping for it to appreciate in value. This income would be lost.
Education would be impacted. The teaching of art is correlated with improvements in creativity and performance in other fields. Some teaching jobs would be lost. Art can lead us to look at the world in a different way. It inspires both children and adults to think, ask questions and seek answers. This is central to the learning process.
Mental and physical health could be impacted. According to Worldhealth.net, stroke survivors who like art have a higher quality of life and recover better from their strokes than non-art lovers (Wixforth, 2019). Research in neurobiology from the University College, London reports that looking at art increases dopamine and activity in the brain’s frontal cortex, which produces pleasure not unlike being in love or taking recreational drugs (The Bomway blog, 2018). According to research at the University of Western Australia, art improves your mental health. Art is used as part of therapy for the treatment of dementia, depression, and other mental illnesses (The Bomway blog, 2018). Arts improve everyone’s emotional well-being by lowering stress and anxiety in addition to fighting depression (Drica Lobo blog, 2019). Art on the walls can brighten a room and lift your mood, or calm a space (Wixforth, 2019). Art can also humanize otherwise depersonalized spaces, like institutions or offices. (Katz and Wood, 2017)
Individually and interpersonally there would also be costs to a loss of visual arts. Both the production of art and the purchase and display of art reflect an individual’s personality, history, and values. For some, showing their art is a way of sharing themselves. Artist themselves would suffer tremendously individually. With no outlet for their creative expressions, they would be stifled. With no patrons or art sales, they would lose hope of ever having art careers, so they might have higher rates of depression and other mental illnesses. Art is also a conversation starter and topic. Art galleries, exhibition openings, and museums are gathering places where you can meet new people. With no art, life might be duller, like the emptier walls of buildings.
There are social costs to having no visual art as well. Art often captures the history, culture, and politics of a particular time. Think, for example, of Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” posters of Barack Obama during the 2008 elections. David Hockney painted many landscapes of his native Yorkshire that portray its natural splendor. Frederick Remington painted iconic landscapes of the US West. Art reflects and inspires political movements and politics of the day (think of the political cartoons in the newspaper or in magazines). With no artists to satirize, demonize, or deify politicians or political stances, how effectively would these people or views communicate themselves? And finally, art is beautiful. It improves the appearance of our environment and communities. No art = less beauty in the environment.
Art enriches life in so many ways. There is the joy of supporting a growing artist. The personal investment in oneself of purchasing an original artwork. The sharing of art among friends. The gifting of art. The pleasure of living in a cheerful living space. Many of the articles I read noted that people are often afraid to purchase art because they think they don’t know enough or that it will be too expensive or that they will be stuck with it forever. I liked what one author talked about (Drica Lobo, 2019). She said that we are often willing to drop several hundred dollars on a trip to Target or a special dinner out with friends. Why not spend some of our money on something that will last longer? Think also of the expensive phones, tablets, and techie toys we purchase. Those will be out of date and not usable in a few years. Art lasts a lifetime – or longer. On the other hand, you don’t have to live with it and never change it. You replace cars, TVs, and Leboutins and paint your house, right? So you can switch the art in your home, too. My opinion is that it is always best when you base your art purchases on your own personal needs and tastes. Critics and trends don’t matter. If you want art to match your couch, go for it. If you want art to create a particular mood, great. But remember this: if no one buys original art, we won’t have any more of it.
The Art League (April 19, 2013). Five Reasons to Buy Art. https://www.theartleague.org/blog/2013/04/19/five-reasons-to-buy-art/
The Bomway (Jan 18, 2018). 5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Art. https://medium.com/@thebomway/5-reasons-why-you-should-buy-art-ae0cc803233d
Drica Lobo (Aug 1, 2019). https://www.dricalobo.com/post/benefits-of-buying-original-art
Jovic, Milaca (Nov 3, 2019). Why You Should Buy Art from Living Artists. https://www.artacacia.com/blogs/posts/why-you-should-buy-art-from-living-artists
Katz, Lisa D., and Wood, Shira (June 6, 2014; updated June 16, 2017). Ten Reasons to Buy Art. https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/lisa-diamond-katz-and-shira-wood/buy-art_b_5460520.html
Wixforth, Janine (Sept 30, 2019). Why Buy Original Art? https://artpiq.net/blogs/news/why-buy-original-art