Our family doesn’t have any family heirlooms. There’s something nostalgic about the thought of passing along treasures that have been in the family for centuries. Society has definitely changed. We consume things and then discard them. Many things are not made to last for years, let alone decades. Grandfather’s pocket watch is no longer practical, even analog wrist watches are becoming outdated because of new technology. Letters have been largely replaced by email, in fact, handwriting in general is becoming a thing of the past. Furniture design, china patterns, clothing and jewelry fashions are in constant flux. With the ever increasing emphasis on digital media, printed photographs and albums are becoming obsolete. So what do you do if you truly want a heirloom to pass on to your family?
This is an important question for me as I wish to share my interests with my child and hopefully generations to come. My answer is art. Art stands the test of time. There are works of art from thousands of years ago that have survived. The reason they have survived is people recognized their value, cherished the work, protected it, and passed it along to their family through the generations. Imagine being the recipient of a Cezanne or Van Gogh painting. What an amazing thing to receive and pass on to future generations. Unfortunately, many of us cannot afford a work by such well-known artists. We are often collecting from the emerging artist market. It is impossible to know whether what we buy today will have any monetary worth in the future. However, I think there’s something to be said for buying work that you love, particularly if it represents a reflection of you. I think the only way to do this effectively is to meet the artist, learn about them, review the entirety of their work and discuss their motivations. My goal is to collect work with a history, one that can be passed along with the artwork so that its story can live on for eternity.
This question also brings with it the discussion of art as an investment. While there are many people looking at art as a long-term investment, this tends to be in the upper echelons of the art market. Finding pieces through reputable galleries and auction houses, you may be able to find an investment that in the future could result in a decent return. However, historically art has not fared much better than the overall market. In my opinion, unless you have a lot of money to spend and are looking to diversify your portfolio, financial gain should not be the goal of purchasing art for posterity. The purpose of buying art is that the work spoke to you, you loved it, and you want it to be cherished for years, perhaps centuries to come.