Why collect art?

By Rachel Ralph

What makes you want to buy a piece of art? Is it an intrinsic draw to the work itself? Is it the artist’s name? Is it due to decorative preference?  Is it an investment?

As I write this I realize that I cannot answer it for myself and certainly not for others. The works in my collection (which is existent, albeit small) were attained due to factors like attraction, price, and frankly timing according to my bank account.  There is no one answer as to what makes me want to buy art, as I see it as a much larger picture than amassing objects to adorn my walls.

That larger picture is the support and fostering of an arts community. We constantly hear a focus on “supporting the arts” ranging from federal grants to small nonprofits, but how an individual supports the arts can vary greatly. You can volunteer, donate, and attend art events to show support, but you can also support the artists in your community directly by buying their work – and you will still get a coveted piece of art to place in your home.

Read a few articles on collecting art and you’ll find that this direct support of artists is often overlooked. Collectors list their financial and cultural desires in the act of collecting works, but they often fail to realize the effects these purchases have on the artists themselves. Maybe it’s an unintended benefit of collecting work, but by buying these works from living artists, these collectors are literally putting food on their tables and clothes on their backs.

I find this kind of support to be especially important in arts communities like our own here in the Bay Area. We live in one of the most expensive locales in the country, to which many of us are attracted to because of the creative energy, and artists have to pay rent too, often on both an apartment and a studio to work in.  Buying work from them will allow these rents to be paid, and maybe even electricity for a few lights as well.

So why write this today? I can’t help but think about how we support our local arts community while sitting in a room filled with local (and affordable) art. Our current show by Ryan De La Hoz is a perfect example of how to make and collect art in our current climate. The largest and most expensive works are only 22” x 28” and top out at $650. This is determined by the fact that De La Hoz works out of his bedroom and can only make things that will fit on his desk and the fact that he wants to make his work accessible to local and emerging collectors.

In this one example, an artist is reflecting upon the current state of their culture, creating aesthetic objects, and keeping them affordable for their audience. And while this may seem like a ploy to boost sales (and it may very well be) my goal is to use this example to spark interest in making, collecting, and displaying local art. After all, if we want to complain about the decline of the San Francisco we love, maybe we should reflect upon our own ability and desire to support  living artists here in the city.

So, if your bank account allows, and you’re interested in providing this kind of support, let me know. I know of a few artists and galleries that I would be happy to connect you to.

Ryan De La Hoz Opening

Photos from our opening May 29th for "Impassable Terrain" by Ryan De La Hoz.