What is art?

It’s long been deliberated – what exactly constitutes something as ‘art’? From Michelangelo’s fresco of the Sistine Chapel to Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, the common thread that links the validity of artistic creation can often seem a little warped.

You would be forgiven for thinking art is a completely unfathomable concept. But, there are some crucial elements that comprise the artistic endeavour and make the medium so important and valuable. So, what is art and why should you invest in it?

Defining the indefinable

There have been many attempts to put a pin in just what the concept of art entails. The fact remains that it can never be reduced to just one thing. It covers many forms of human expression such as visual, auditory or performing mediums. Often you might wonder why something so simple or perhaps so absurd/abstract can be deemed art?

That is because art is more than technical expertise. As human beings we hold the intrinsic need to express the force of our imagination. We produce work that is intended to be appreciated for its beauty or emotional power.

The element of appreciation makes art more than just a product. It is always an experience. This includes not just the creation of the physical work of art but the criticism of art, the study of the history of art and the aesthetic dissemination of art.

Art and society

It was Fredrick Nietzsche who said, “We have art so that we shall not die of reality”. While art may not seem like the most important element in life and society it is nonetheless a facet that we would collectively suffer without.

Artistic expression allow for the growth of imagination and the fostering of new ideas. In a democratic society the scope for alternative viewpoints and the concept of free speech and expression is a cornerstone. When Nazi Germany took to burning every available book during the Holocaust (that wasn’t prescribed by the Fascists) this formed a powerful attack on this very fundamental and important freedom of humanity.

Without artisans and designers we wouldn’t adorn our living spaces. Our clothes would never be more than uniforms.  We would never aspire to more. We would never challenge anything. We would lead a drab, nondescript existence. The need to create art in all forms is that which separates us from animals.

Art as a catalyst

Art often underpins the current political, ideological and social mores of an era and the constructs at hand. This is referred to as ‘mimesis’. Understanding our reality is a crucial ingredient in our human agency. We seek to understand the world around us, to learn, to grow, to critique and sometimes even to lay complete waste to commonly held beliefs so that fresh ones may be illuminated.

We owe the Greek philosopher Socrates a lot when it comes to an explanation for this component of human spirit. “The unexamined life is one not worth living” is the ancient utterance that distils this idea. To be human is to transcend animalistic instinct and desire.

It is to be conscious. It is to seek to understand our place in a world of constant flux with many challenging agendas and limitations in place. In this way, art functions as a metaphorical barometer, measuring the undercurrent of our human experience.

Investing in art

Art is all around us. To visit an art gallery is the most literal representation of the experience of art. Graffiti, tattoos and polaroids can all be valid examples of fine art. It is dependant on the response of the viewer.  In this way art is a subjective experience.

For all the reasons previously outlined in this article artistic expression should always be nurtured and protected. One of the most powerful ways to foster artistic expression is to invest in your own collection.

Art is nothing without it being experienced and without it having an audience. It is akin to a living, thriving organism as an extension of our human agency. That is why particular pieces of art become so valuable.

Investing in art is a thoroughly worthwhile and perhaps even essential activity for any citizen of this planet who is fortuitously enough placed to be able to do so. Art is always about appreciation and that is why investing in art is so important.