Art: The World’s Most Expensive Drug

Posted on July 5, 2012


Buying art could very well be the world’s most expensive high.

Barclays Bank recently interviewed 2,000 wealthy people in 17 countries to elucidate what exactly motivates people to purchase art. The results show that the art market is highly psychological and social. While a mere ten percent stated that they purchase art as a pure investment, seventy-five percent stated that they purchase art for sheer enjoyment. The majority of respondents referred to purchasing art as a “high.”

For many collectors, purchasing art while attending art fairs and auctions fosters a sense of community.  As collector Jay Smith explains, “[w]hen I don’t buy anything, the fair feels dull. Buying makes you feel connected to what is going on.” Art collectors also describe feelings of victory, cultural superiority, and social distinction in connection with their purchases. Some even claim that purchasing artwork fills a spiritual void.

When it comes to selling their art, however, art collectors sing a very different tune. Many feel conflicted, guilty, and even remorseful. Dealers often refuse to sell to art to collectors who are known to sell work soon after their original purchase.  For these collectors, the high of purchasing art may be harder to come by.

The Economist: Why buy art?