I am fascinated by the reasons why people buy art. One of my recent experiences was the sale of Jane Skingley’s painting ‘Love or Hate’.
I used this image to advertise an event; unknown to me Marmite disappeared off the shelves of our shops shortly after the Brexit referendum. On the first day of the exhibition Paul came into the gallery holding the programme and pointing to the image. He said “I want to see this painting. She loves it I hate it”. I told him the main exhibition was downstairs. He ran downstairs only to shortly return looking rather nervous. He explained that the painting was perfect, however more than he felt he could spend. I asked if the lady in question had a birthday coming up so he could justify the cost - sadly not.
There was a tense moment as he considered whether he would buy the painting or not. Then, decisively, he said yes he wanted to buy it. As I processed the sale I could feel his excitement. He said he was never usually spontaneous and he wasn’t sure what came over him.
Assuming the woman to be his partner, I asked whether she was his wife. “No”, he said “I employ her and she is already married”. I responded by saying “I’m not sure she will be for long once she receives the painting”. He pondered and then became anxious by the power of his actions and what he might be actually saying with this painting.
He stayed in the gallery for another thirty minutes, processing what had just happened and partly in shock. As the painting was part of an exhibition, I asked if it was okay to hold onto the piece until it ended and he agreed.
A week later Paul was waiting outside for me to open the gallery. Initially, I thought he had changed his mind or wanted to see the painting again. However, he wanted to tell me more. He explained that he had had a brain tumour some years previously. He had been running a very successful alarm systems company. One day he was fine, the next day he found himself in hospital. His recuperation has taken many years and meant the loss of his house and business to pay for his care.
Today you would never be able to tell from Paul’s attitude or his appearance that this had happen to him. The lady he bought the painting for is his support worker and I like to think that by buying the painting he was showing his great appreciation for her.
We can never underestimate the power of an image can have and the effect that art can have on us. I felt privileged to witness this loving act of kindness.
Please note some of the details have been slightly changed to protect the identity of the client. The painting is now on long-term loan to the recipient, which is more appropriate than a gift in the work situation.