Like artists, collectors take a lot of crap for their personal tastes. It takes a certain kind of bravery to buy a piece of art and display it unapologetically in your home. It’s the same kind of bravery it takes to create it in the first place.

Think about it. When an artist shows his work to the world and puts a price tag on it he is making a value statement about the nature of his work. “I made this, it has value, it deserves appreciation.” The collector confirms this value when he buys it. And he will defend his purchase if friends and relatives questions its value and his judgement. “What you paid 2000 $ for that? You could have bought new golf clubs and a steak dinner for the family you nut!” You could even consider the act of buying to be the completion of the long process of transforming a cheap canvas into a work of art.

I strongly suspect this is why such a disproportionate amount of paintings are of sails in the sunset and pretty pastures with a few sheep in them or abstract pieces titled “Untitled”. It’s safe. Safe to paint, safe to appreciate them. If you own a glow in the dark fluorescent painting of a penis with a few swastikas thrown in for good measure it will surely raise more questions about your person than a painting of a golden sunset over a pond. Other than that I make no judgement of which is better but in this instance I’d go with the sunset if I had to chose. Art communicates something about who we are or at least who we would like to be.

Odd paintings make bold a statement about the owner and the creator alike. It seems that the only thing that will mitigate the boldness of this statement is universal recognition from critics and art historians. Once in the history books, art that was once controversial no longer is. Art that once spawned outrage can suddenly be sold as cheap posters and displayed in living rooms of ordinary people who care less about de-constructing reality than they do about covering the stain on the wall.

The reverse is also true. When the academic work of the 19th century became unfashionable, displaying it became an act of defiance against the new dogma of the avant garde. And we couldn’t have that, could we? And sure enough, many museums were suddenly too embarrassed to show academic paintings and put them in storage in a basement somewhere in a desperate attempt to keep up with the times. Thus unwittingly contributing to the devaluation of their collection.

But that’s how it goes… What is considered good, and socially acceptable art will change over time much like the preferred skirt length in fashion. Change is necessary and essential. In art, in society and in life.

This is why I am truly grateful that there are still people in this world who can look anyone in the eye and say. “Yes, I like it” without consulting an expert. Not just when it comes to art but in all aspects of life. These are my people. Thanks for existing.

Cheers, Richard Vännström

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