“But I can just look at a JPEG online.”
“Any artwork can be found with a quick Google search, and you don’t need to go anywhere near the museum to see it. You can just look at a JPEG, after all!”
This is an argument you’ll see all the time regarding digital art, digital assets, and NFTs. It’s a painful complaint, and it becomes more boring every time it crops up.
“If you can see a picture of the art online, why care about seeing the original?”
This isn’t just about the JPEG, though — it’s the paradigm of digital ownership and the value that we assign to digital art. The digital images of works in museums are often available for free only because the original work still has accepted experiential value.
Digital art has brought new life into the creative form by allowing people worldwide to access creative works without barriers like distribution channels or borders between them. The fact that anyone can now buy something made by another human being brings us one step closer towards Utopia, where creativity will be celebrated rather than suppressed because those who live there know how powerful these creations really are!
The argument is easily dismissed when you understand why owning art is essential. It’s not holding it that matters. The value of an asset gives incentive to collectors, but it’s not the point. It’s supporting the artist who created it to enable them to make more and sustain a career. Because without that, we simply don’t have art.
As an artist, it’s hard to make a living when you don’t have the support of investors. They can help you get your work out there in front of more people and leave you room for creative growth without having to embrace the Starving Artist cliche.
But buying art is more than that again. It’s investing in yourself and the quality of your life and the joy and passion you can draw from art — when you buy something that means something to you because of its meaning or history that becomes part of who you are as well. Can you do that by looking at a reproduction of the original JPEG? Sure. But it’s the significance of the action.
By choosing to value beauty, you are making a statement about its importance in your personal priorities, values, and hierarchy of needs.
Art enables us to share what we love with others. Art creates connections between people and unites us all through our shared appreciation for creativity.
An investor, it’s crucial that you are someone who understands art — at least as an aesthetic that you personally enjoy and appreciate — and supports the artist by giving them what they need to create their best work.
If we can experience the artist’s emotions while looking at their work, then they have succeeded in bringing that beauty into our lives for just a few moments — it’s truly magic.
That’s how culture grows.
Joan Westenberg is an award-winning Australian contemporary writer, angel investor, communicator and creative director. She is the founder of branding and PR firm Studio Self. Her approach to messaging, communication and semiotics has built her reputation as a writer, and she has been named as one of the leading startup voices in Australia by SmartCompany.
Her writing has appeared in The SF Chronicle, Wired, The AFR, The Observer, ABC, Junkee, SBS, Crikey and over 40+ publications. Her regular work can be found on Pizza Party, a blog about creativity, culture and technology. Joan is the creator of Transgenderinclusion.com, an open-source workplace inclusion hack.