Just like those 20 quarantine pounds that I swear came out of nowhere, the emotional love affair I’ve developed for art is something I never saw coming. Art can make or break a space–it sets the tone, brings LIFE into a room, and without it, a room falls flat. The pieces I pick have a story–and appreciating that story and an artist’s creative process to get there is something I’ve learned not to take for granted. And it’s not lost on me that just a couple years ago I was skipping out of a HomeGoods store hugging “Live, Love, Laugh” signs with a big smile on my face. So yes, I wear my art rookie badge proudly, and I’m constantly learning.
When my art cravings began, I spent many nights scrolling the internet for the “perfect” pieces to put up on my walls. I discovered online shops that had beautiful art pieces that you could download easily for just a couple bucks and print anywhere at your convenience. I couldn’t believe it! I wanted to share this monumental discovery with everyone I knew. I purchased from these shops, promoted them, shared affiliate links, and even went as far as sharing tips and tutorials on how to get “cheap” art for your home. What a damn fool I was.
Most of the shops I had purchased from had taken vintage art pieces, slapped a new name on them, completely stripped them of their history, and wrapped them in a shiny cheap price tag. And if you don’t find that cringeworthy enough, other shops have gone as far as getting influencers to curate their own collection of these vintage pieces and claim it as their own. And if you’re having a hard time understanding, allow me to break it down for you. Imagine an artist that poured their heart, and often times their pain, into a beautiful piece that they created. A piece that had a story and a name. Then this artist dies, and the art becomes part of public domain. So then a shop owner takes that piece, completely strips it of it’s history and it’s owner and gives it to Becky, a home decor influencer. Becky renames this piece with a cliche name, “curates” it as her own, and profits off of it. This is a problem, and we have to be better than this.
Like I said, I’m still learning. Personally, I’ve taken down all the affiliate links I had for shops that don’t credit artists–and let me tell you, those were always my most popular links. I’ve also removed them from my highlights on Instagram, and deleted all my blog posts that have linked them as well. And if you’re an influencer reading this, I encourage you to do the same.
And before I move on, it is worth saying that there ARE many online shops that offer digital downloads and DO credit artists and are wonderful people. These shops do their due diligence in highlighting artists and their work. I encourage you to do your due diligence when purchasing from shops like these too–check to see if they’ve credited artists, and/or if it’s their own work. And if it’s ambiguous on their website–reach out to them, and ask.
I will say, there is something extra special about ordering directly from an artist. The quality and originality of the piece is completely unmatched–there is a reason people buy art as an investment, and I see that now. Artists tell stories with their pieces, stories you wouldn’t otherwise get from anywhere else. Art isn’t just some random accessory you buy for a room to please your eye, it’s something special that comes with a story that invokes feeling into a room. You’re buying someone’s pain, someone’s happiness, and someone’s experiences they’ve poured into a piece. This is something very special that we should never take for granted–nor should we ever strip it of it’s story or it’s history like many of these shops have.
These shops make art disposable. They completely dehumanize the artist and their history, and it is a problem. They’re making a profit off of these creations without taking the time to educate themselves and their consumers on the history behind each piece. These pieces were created before copyright laws, and if these artists were still alive today, this would be considered theft or copyright infringement. And just because something is legal, doesn’t make it okay. Consumerism is full of copying and reproduction, and this is not something that will disappear. However, we as individuals have the opportunity to change the demand, and buy from the source. Lastly, it’s OK to buy an old print of a piece that spoke to you–in fact you should, this is exactly how we preserve art history and artists. The point is, make the effort to educate yourself on that piece, and don’t strip these pieces of their history like these shops do so carelessly for a profit.
You want affordable art without supporting shops like these? Support print shops that credit artists, co-ops that sell artist’s work, or go thrifting and snag some actual vintage pieces. And if you really want to support an artist, buy directly from them when you can. Believe it or not, many artists have affordable prints in addition to their originals. These prints are made with care, put on quality, archival paper, and come straight from an individual. And learn their story, share their story, and say their name. Artists are a gift, and we should treat them as such.