Art is a $50.1 billion global market, with the U.S. being the largest player at 42% of total sales value. But art is more than a market or investment vehicle. Works of art can be creative expressions for their creators, or a source of joy and inspiration for their consumers; sometimes those are the same individuals.
“Creativity and imagination are our unique strengths as a species,” shares Girija Kaimal, president of the American Art Therapy Association. Artworks often adorn our walls and sit on our mantels and shelves. They also appear on our computer and television screens. Art enhances our homes and lives as an integral component of wellness design.
“The strongest draw to collect art is the feeling of connection to a place or person,” observes Liz Moss, owner of Elizabeth Moss Galleries, in Falmouth, Maine. “Because of the pandemic and our need to shelter in home, we have reevaluated our living spaces. The home and its art have needed to become a sanctuary for our body and spirit.”
“Art is such a personal experience!” agrees San Diego-based interior designer Susan Wintersteen. “It’s an expression of the homeowner and what will bring them joy. I think a piece should make a homeowner stop, think, smile,” she adds. Wintersteen likes commissioning local art as a form of project personalization. “I think there is a huge opportunity to include custom pieces made specifically for a family,” she suggests. Using art in this way may not be valuable in the traditional financial sense, the designer notes, but it has very special meaning for the homeowner.
For one project tied to her children’s Savvy Giving by Design charity, she commissioned a piece inspired by the daughter’s favorite song. “She and her mother were fighting cancer at the same time. This lyric was special to Soledad, so we added it. It was most cherished.”
Beyond individual inspirations like this one, Moss sees social movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter playing a role in art collecting and giving opportunities to emerging talent. “I see more diversity in artists being represented and publicized and this in turn creates new collectors who relate to these artists.”
Art as Therapy
The turbulence of those social movements, as well as a global pandemic and greater public acceptance of addressing mental health issues, has also spurred more individuals to pursue art therapy. “Engaging in creative expression is a way of promoting our mental health, just like nutritious food and physical exercise keep our bodies healthy,” points out Kaimal.
Art therapy originated with military veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress and children with special needs, the AATA president reports, but it has since expanded to treating a wide range of patients and conditions. “Art therapy is about engaging in the process of visual and verbal self-expression such that we are able to access and communicate our inner state when words alone are not adequate.” The art therapy client does not need to be a budding master; being an artist is almost irrelevant, Kaimal declares.
One of the ways we’re seen is through our homes. You may not display artworks you create yourself, but art therapy can help you identify the artistic experiences that resonate within a viewer, the art therapist comments. “Being heard and seen for who we are is the therapeutic aspect that an art therapist helps promote for their clients,” she observes. “These experiences reduce loneliness and help us feel connected to the broader universe of human experiences. We might be different, but our need to express and connect with each other are universal. This is why some works of art speak to us even though they might be hundreds or thousands of years old.”
Art at Home
Alternatively, they might just decades old. “The interest in mid-century homes and interiors has pushed client interest into artworks from the same period,” Moss says, noting that her work takes her to client homes for consultations. “Art placement is site-specific and not every wall needs something,” she suggests.
Her clients also enjoy grouping works, combining gallery-acquired pieces with personal collections. “In my house, I’ve combined black and white photographs I’ve collected for investment with black and white photographs of my kids as toddlers,” Moss shares.
Wintersteen likes creating collage walls mixing vintage and new art, she says. This often combines works chosen for sentimental value with others selected for purely visual appeal. “I also love to see oversized super-large art on a wall vs. smaller pieces. These statement pieces can be coordinated or stand on their own,” she suggests.
One of the fastest-growing segments of the art market is digital, driven by Millennial and Generation Z buyers. Dealers believe it’s here to stay, though the popularity of non-fungible tokens versus other formats is still to be determined. Art dealer Moss observes, “There is a whole new art market of NFT-based collectors, but it’s still in its infancy.”
NFTs have gotten bad press, and for good reason in some cases. “There are many high level scams out there,” Moss cautions. “It’s an exciting new art industry, but I caution investors to do extensive research on the seller, artist and payment platform (bitcoin, etc.).” She also points out that there are specific screens needed for very high resolution to best display some digital art works.
For less rarified collections, many homeowners (myself included), have purchased Samsung’s Frame TV, which displays digital art when it’s not being used as a television. This art can be the homeowner’s own images or selections from museums and galleries curated by Samsung. Wintersteen specifies the Frame for more than 75% of her television-buying clients, she says. They want TVs, but prefer them not to be a room’s focal point. The art option allows her to ‘hide’ the unsightly black box over the fireplace with a piece of digital art. The edges of the television are designed to look like a picture frame.
“Digital options offer many avenues to health and well-being,” declares Kaimal. This includes letting someone see the world in unexpected ways. “Digital media has the benefit of being able to ‘undo’ and ‘redo,’ very helpful when we feel anxious or afraid to fail.” It allows the user to remake an artwork in infinite ways. “This has tremendous therapeutic value,” the art therapist adds. Personalization fits into the comfort and joy facet of wellness design.
“Great design and seamless integration of original art create beautiful and harmonious environments,” says Moss. “I strongly believe original artworks have a spiritual element to them and if the viewer connects to it, they experience a special energetic lift. The role of landscapes and seascapes literally create a chemical reaction in our brains that mimic being in nature.” If you can’t get to the mountains or beach and need a nature break, it can be as close as your nearest wall!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Kaimal, Moss and Wintersteen will be sharing their art for wellness design insights in an hour-long Clubhouse conversation tomorrow afternoon at 4 pm Eastern/1 pm Pacific. You can join this WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS discussion here. If you’re unable to attend, you can catch the recording via Clubhouse Replays or the Gold Notes design blog here the following Wednesday.