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"Why Do People Buy Art?" Director of Egypt's Largest Art Gallery Tells All

Art aficionados could go on for days about the nitty gritty details of the world of artistic creativity, but what makes people buy art, and how do you start navigating this whole new world?

My very first memorable encounter with art was when my mother took me to an art museum and, whilst I was wandering aimlessly, I was stopped in my tracks by a stunning painting of an open window by Matisse. I was maybe about 12 years old. I didn't understand then what I later developed words for, but when I got home, I started redrawing what I saw. I wanted to keep something from the experience – to retain some of the joy, if possible. I wanted to have this energy around me and I wanted to be an artist that can spread this energy, too. I wanted to know more.

Several years later, I came across a good quality print for that same painting and I instantly bought that- it's up in my house to this day. It’s about wanting very much to be with something and getting the same thrill every time you see it. Love enriches you and art is love.

Before I get completely carried away and lose you entirely, let me just say there are millions of people like me. In fact, as Egyptians, art runs through our veins and is embedded in our genes. Historically, Ancient Egyptian art has laid out the fundamentals of art and design for thousands of years, and millions of artists to follow. Our ancestors were magnificent sculptors, painters, and illustrators. Artists. It is this very rich heritage and the layers of centuries of livelihoods that give contemporary Egyptian art its magnetic unique personality. Contemporary Egyptian art is a rich fusion of Ancient symbols, traditional beliefs, cultural traditions, and Gen X mindsets expressing themselves using Western schools and modern progressive techniques.

When I meet people who have little or no interest in art and I explain to them what I do, their first question is usually, "why do people buy art?" There is no short answer to this question and my usual response is "how much time do you have?"

In an attempt to summarise, there are several main reasons people buy art. It might be that they fell in love with a piece and the emotional connection was simply irresistible. Every art piece has a story – the one given by the artist and continued by the owner. Emotions, experiences and feelings are shared and intertwined. The urge to have a role in this story can be irresistible.

Another common motive is their belief in its investment value. Persons and corporations have been diversifying their investment portfolio with art for years. People choose work they believe has great future potential. It’s an extremely enjoyable form of investment and countless collectors and funds have benefited greatly. In the end, buying art is a luxurious experience and adds an adventurous touch to the buyer's life. It feels good to buy something beautiful and enjoy it daily.

So where do you start? Navigating the art scene might seem intimidating at first. But let me tell you the biggest kept secret of the art world: there is no such thing as someone who "doesn't understand art." True, there are levels of art appreciation. Yet, after all is said and done, art is a visual/sensory experience and we are all entitled to any reaction we have. Love a piece or hate it, art is a universal language that is open for any interpretation.

It's nice to start your collection by acquiring the first piece you truly fall head over heels for. Like everything else you own, the art you choose reflects your lifestyle and expresses your personality. The artist expresses and creates freely; the buyer brings this freedom inside his space and enjoys it daily. Over time, the more art you see, the more your taste will change and your preferences will develop and become uniquely yours. But that first piece will always hold a special place in your heart, much like a firstborn baby.

Keep your eye on the trends. Follow emerging artists and track their careers. If you are buying art purely as an investment, this is usually a goldmine. Young artists are usually more affordable, which means there is smaller risk and much larger gains to be made. I personally find this line of art relatable; I enjoy the freshness, the honesty, and the evolving artists' very struggle to find their voice. To me, it feels real.

Having said that, buying the work of an established artist is a transformative experience that should certainly be emphasised. You will own a piece that holds his/her years of experience, emotions, struggles, expression, mastery, and skill to enjoy every day at your convenience. Investment-wise, an established artist is usually a safe bet and a solid win.

The world of art and artists is fascinating. Going to galleries, looking at art online, meeting like-minded people, discussing art trends, and learning about the very process of creativity are extremely rewarding activities. Experiencing and appreciating art is not a luxury, but a form of evolving oneself; art feeds into our spirituality and our consciences, raising our awareness and connecting us to our very core. Seek it, enjoy it, share it, and show more of it to your kids.

Keep your hearts and eyes open – this new strong love is everywhere around you, just waiting to be discovered. It gives back, freely.


Lina Mowafy is an independent artist and The Arts-Mart Gallery Director. 

Main image by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.
Photography by Ahmed Najeeb.
Art Direction by Karim Alwi.


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