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The value of art

We all know of the great artists of history and modern times, but what value do their works really hold for us?

This article was prompted by the Wendover Productions' The Art Market is a Scam (And Rich People Run It) YouTube video, but while it dealt with the basically manufactured art market created by wealthy people for their own benefit, here we will examine the intrinsic value of artworks to us, rather than their supposed market worth.

Most things we buy have some intrinsic value to us. That is, we want them because we want what they can give to us, like food and rent giving us sustenance and shelter. If we are not financially well off, the value will be about survival. If we are better off, it becomes more about how what we get makes us feel. Some things are an investment, like a house, and that makes us feel more secure about the future, though it could be said that we invest in things because we feel secure about our futures, making the process a sort of sympathetic spiral upwards.

We might have things like paintings and statues because they prompt some emotional response in us. It may not matter whether they are originals or a copy or mass-produced, as it is the form that gives us what we want, and not its provenance. We might prefer the quality of an original work, but that is still an emotional-mental experience that we have chosen it for. We might have some religious-themed items because they remind us of what we believe, and thus prompt us to keep on track with them.

In some way, all these items help us to keep balanced in life. We are sustained, not by consuming them, but by their mere presence. As we change and evolve, we might get new art and dispense with others, but they have all served as signposts and shepherds for our lives. They are reminders of who we are, or at least who we want to be, and we can be grateful that others have created them. If we have the space, we will fill it with them so we have plenty to remind us.

Of course, we can get obsessed with them if they become more than companions to us, and that is when we expect them to become more useful to us, such as by becoming an investment that we can trade in the future. For others, they can become a crutch if having difficulty in dealing with the fragility of life, such as those who become hoarders as a bulwark against an uncertain future. At that point, we have allowed them to start directing our lives rather than being a partner in it. However, if we get wise, we can step back from that.

When I thought about writing this article, I had the idea that art was overrated in our lives, as the world of art itself is, but as I started writing, I came to see how useful they can be, if only in the emotional and mental balance they can bring to our lives. However, as we become more secure in ourselves and our lives, the need to have art around us as reminders of how to feel and think will diminish, and then they will have served a very useful purpose for us by being in our lives.

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