I feel I need to clarify that statement: ‘invest’ would suggest handing over vast sums of money (which we don’t have) for a painting or a statue that we would keep in the house and forever look over protectively, with a hand-wringing paranoia that it must not be touched or gone near. No, when I say ‘invest in art’ I suppose I mean I want a one-off of reasonably modest origins that could be hung on the wall and become part of the family with a story to tell.
While I’ve stood in front of many of the world’s most famous paintings in galleries, I can’t pretend to know a whole lot about art. My philosophy comes more from the Monty Burns School of Thought: in the episode of The Simpsons when Marge does his controversial nude portrait he surprises everyone by saying,
“I know what I hate – and I don’t hate this.”
There have been times when I’ve had an audio-tour in my ear or a program in my hand explaining the artistic qualities of a piece and I can appreciate what they’re saying, but I’m not sure I can say I then reached any kind of independent assessment of what I thought about it. This difference didn’t really occur to me until I was in university. I was walking in Bathurst one day when I came across an antique/bric-a-brac store and having nothing better to do I went inside. Walking into the first showroom on the left, in this converted cottage down near the railways, there, propped over the fireplace was this a print of this painting:
‘The Singing Butler’, Jack Vettriano
I knew nothing of the painter or the provenance of the piece (in fact, this was 1997 and the original painting was only a few years old at the time) but none of that mattered. I stood there, transfixed. Later on that week I dragged in a friend to look at it with me. Her response, while generally positive, was not as euphoric as my own and while I was a little disappointed it also demonstrated just how subjective tastes can be and that if you like something that’s okay.
But getting back on topic, above all, with this living list wish, I’d like to hope I could occasionally support a local or emerging artist by buying a piece of their work.
Turns out, before Christmas, I did.
There was an exhibition at our local library and this painting spoke to me immediately. Adam rides his bike into the city every week and this reminded me of him. I looked at the price tag and it was… well… more than I usually pay for an anniversary present (which was the pretext this was going to be bought under). So I ummed and ahhhed for a while until I thought, Just do it. So I did, and as I handed over a cheque felt both very grown up and very sick. I had no idea if he’d like it either – a big consideration – and to be honest when I gave it to him with a big flourish there were several seconds of dumbfounded silence (he understood once I explained my reasons).
A friend of mine came over one day and was about to walk out the door when she stopped and looked at the wall. I hadn’t told her about the new purchase.
“That’s from the library,” she said, “from that recent exhibition.”
She nodded and smiled. “It was my favourite too. I’m glad you got it.”
So am I.
I can see why people get hooked to the competitiveness of acquisition, but that won’t be us. If I’m lucky enough to do this every so often, that will make me more than happy.
Artist: Diana Jackson