While ownership is clearly defined for most property, when it comes to fine art there are aspects of ownership that are unique, and even shared by people who lack any title to a work of art.
One aspect of this can quickly and easily be seen when it comes to artworks that are antiquities. While a person might purchase a work, removing that piece from its country of origin may not be permitted, or may be deemed socially unacceptable. It is said that the artwork belongs to the people of that country even though they do not own the title (meaning as in deeded right) to the work.
Then there is copyright ownership. While a collector may own the original work, the artist retains the copyright and can sell the right to make prints, use the image for advertising, on goods, or anyway else it can be franchised. The artist does not need to confer with the collector who owns the original. Yet the collector of the original may not legally even send photos of the work to friends and clients as a holiday card, without the artist’s agreement.
Even in a recession great and recognized art retains much of its prior value, making it a good investment. A van Gogh remains a van Gogh—and the same can be said for many of the masters. Yet, great art is always inevitably also free to all viewers.
Most gallery shows are free. Museums are often on a donation basis so those who cannot afford much can come in, or special times when admission is free. While images of great art are not the same as seeing a work up front and personally, there are wonderful art books for art lovers. Many of these books are readily available to see, or to take on loan from public libraries.
Money, buying power does not matter when it comes to viewing art. The viewing experience of a wealthy collector is as valid as a poor student’s. Each owns and takes away his own experience.
No one but the artist can actually ever own a work of art. A work can only be validly changed by the artist who created it. Clearly this is widely considered to be true since if anyone or anything else changes it, the work is said to be in need of restoration.
Collectors can only buy the right to decide where an artwork is located. Safe keeping of works is a position collectors pay to have. It is a position of deep, even sacred trust. Perhaps it is fitting that those people who have amassed wealth and property are entrusted with tending to the care of the artwork in their collection.
Cypresses , 1889
If the artwork becomes more valuable due to greater appreciation of the artist, the work and the economy then a collector may be rewarded by the work having increased in value. Selling a distinguished artwork means relinquishing a position of trust.
Each person “owns” their own experiences with art and specific artworks. My Experiences of van Gogh’s The Cypresses at The Metropolitan Museum are exceptionally meaningful to me. Experientially, I have a relationship to that painting that began when I was a girl. Yet I do not own the painting only my experiences of it. By the way, many of those experiences were given to me through the free admission I enjoyed as a student growing up in NYC.
Who can own art? Each person that is moved or inspired by art owns it in his or her own unique way.
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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art at ungravenimage.com.
Post Conceptual UnGraven Image Art theory is based at the intersection of ancient spiritual wisdom and cutting-edge contemporary science. It shows us a new and enhanced spiritual and science-based way to see the world. It is a life changing vision that can even become an actual new way of seeing that is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Can this be true? See for yourself.
Check out the Fine Art Limited Edition prints, decorative prints, books, and printables that are currently available to you through Judy Rey’s Art of Seeing The Divine Shop. You don’t have to buy to avail yourself of the art and inspiration available there. However, if you select to collect investment quality archival art, or decorate your home with images created with strokes that are original letters from Bible texts, or buy a gift for someone special, there is a secure shopping cart that accepts most credit cards so your purchase is easy to accomplish. https://artofseeingthedivine.com.
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