The Value of Art – Individual vs Humanity

ariane of smartist_value of art and humanity

A fellow artist sent me the link to this post because she knew that I’ve been chewing on the question “What is the value of art?”

What fascinates me is how this post, and the comments, focus on value through the consumer lens of an individual, potential collector or buyer asking, Why should I buy this?

Yes, I can see how artists ponder what motivates someone to purchase art (or not) from either an emotional, status, or investment perspective (the only three values offered in the post).

Yet I can’t help wondering how the conversation might change if we asked about the value of art to humanity as a whole.

You might think you could extrapolate the collective value from learning how individuals value art, but I suspect there’s a larger dynamic operating and this narrow lens will only take us so far.

A completely different universe of value relates to something I’ve been soapbox-passionate about since the beginning of smARTist: the idea that art, and artists, are at the very heart of humanity’s relationship to creativity.

And when artists embrace this bracing perspective, they can engage an energetic power with the potential to shoot the quality and impact of their work to the stars (and beyond).


Important Side Note:

The link above is actually a repost of  Jim Benest’s original post on FASO.

My inclination is to always include a direct link to the artist’s website, but in this case I hesitated because, as many artists do, Jim has chosen to use a bright yellow font on a black background – completely unaware of how truly difficult this is on human eyes, which already struggle to read anything on a monitor with a static light source, never mind our small devices.

I know the rationale most often is: “But my art looks so good against black!”

I challenge this response as emotionally skewed by the dominant power of the color black, which seduces artist so they don’t have a more thoughtful response that takes into account the very individual collectors and buyers this artist, and any artist, would like to engage in a mutually prosperous relationship

But I digress….


Next week, I’ll take up the topic of Art vs Artist – also inspired by Jim Benest’s same post on the value of art.

8 Responses to “The Value of Art – Individual vs Humanity”

  1. Bob pike says:

    A big mistake that seems to be made by both artists and the general population is the way we use the word Art. Everyone buys art all the time. Most everything in our lives is touched by an artists creative energy, cars, clothing, movies, houses, appliances, TV shows, signs, etc. If you remove the art from our lives we end up with a lot of grey boxes to drive in and live in and wear. There are thousands of different kinds of art but everyone ASSUMES we are talking about Fine Art when we use the word art and there are even many kinds of fine art. Are people talking about visual art or performing art or music or —-. The value of the arts in our lives is very obvious when all of the arts are taken into consideration. If you’re going to talk about the arts, why not name the art you are talking about because they are all very different from each other. Dance is not like painting and music is not like sculpture or writing. It is a disservice to talk about the arts as if the only kind of art is painting or that all artists work in their studios or all artists are trying to sell their work in a gallery.

  2. Ariane Goodwin, Ed.D. says:

    Oh, Bob, you’ve hit on something very powerful and what i think about all the time.

    The reason I didn’t specify visual art in this post is because that is all that I work with – visual artists and that is whom I’m addressing here – always!

    I totally agree about the way art is used and generally understood as fairly “sloppy” for those of us who like clarity and focus in our use of language.

    However, there is a lot to be learned in how the general public relates to the idea of “art.” This is a large subject and not easily engaged in a single comment.

    Suffice it to say that I’m most curious about the relationship to visual art by a public inundated from every angle by all the other arts.

    And this is where I’m focused on my current curiosity: what is the value of the visual arts for individuals and humanity.

    Some have been touched on in the post, but what I really crave is for artists to come here and tell me what they think that is!

  3. Ariane Goodwin, Ed.D. says:

    P.S. Another big mistake too many people make, is to not break up dense paragraphs into quickly readable single sentences :-) jus’ saying’ :-)

  4. Pib says:


    Great to hear from you again – I miss your weekly posts.

    Some say we are attracted to people who look like us, maybe that’s true.

    If I look at fine art I can often recognise genius but remain unmoved. At other times I recognise a professional and studied approach and recognise the care over the composition, the tonal qualities and the colour.

    I buy art when it “makes a connection” with me. What does that mean? I guess it means the subject, tones, stroke, composition, colour, weight, medium (and lets not deny it budget)all connect to make something in my brain go PING.

    Maybe understanding the art we choose to buy helps us to understand ourselves?

    I recently painted my first abstract. It wasn’t intended to be one – it just came out that way, and I loved it. Producing it has opened new doors for me. A bit like being a new parent.

    I get the sense that the art we like reflects the way our brain is connected and producing new works helps us to re-shape those connections.

    • Ariane Goodwin, Ed.D. says:

      Oh, Pib, I love this comment for many, many reasons.

      First, nice to be missed and get told, so thank you for that. I was giving myself such a hard time for the months of blog silence and happy to have you taking the time to comment (really does keep the blog motivation up!).

      A pattern that isn’t often talked about is artists who start out fully embracing the camp of realism and as they grow (usually decades later) morph into more and more abstraction.

      Makes me wonder if that too isn’t connected to my fav thing you wrote: “I get the sense that the art we like reflects the way our brain is connected and producing new works helps us to re-shape those connections.”

      I suspect you are onto something here.

  5. Delores Rhodes says:

    This sort of touches on something that I’m been harping on for some time, which is that we, US Americans, have come to devalue anything that has intrinsic value, but not necessarily monetary value.

    Artists are dreamers who will never really make it in the world, art is constantly cut from schools, art is nice but really just a waste of time. Forests are commodities to harvest, altruistic values are scoffed at and belittled.

    How did we get to this point? (Or am I just overly sensitive right now as I listen to the wind blow the rain against my window and sit in the dark at 3:30 in the afternoon. Winter, grr…)

    • Ariane Goodwin, Ed.D. says:

      Oh, Delores, yes those dark wintery nights can definitely shape our stories in a specific way.

      I think you are partially correct in your observation about how our culture devalues intrinsic motivation.

      And… I also think we are expanding the value of creative endeavor in general.

  6. Delores Rhodes says:

    I didn’t say it in my earlier post, but it is great to see your post again. Didn’t realized that I missed them until they began again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *