The art world has changed significantly since Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer created his masterpieces more than 350 years ago.
Even since Picasso, Matisse, and more recently Eva Hesse were putting brush to canvas, the art world has grown and evolved.
The development of the internet has played a chief role in this evolution, as has the continued advancement of contemporary popular art, video, film, and electronically produced sound.
Amid this flux, one thing that has remained constant is the fundamental impulse to consume and collect artwork.
Emerging from a complex amalgamation of investment and status-building on the one hand, and pleasure in artistic creation on the other, art collection has endured the test of time.
Art collecting goes far back – the ancient Romans were well-known for owning vast arrays of Greek paintings and sculptures.
More recently, the aristocratic and royal collections of the seventeenth century have supplied the foundations for most of the worlds public art collections.
For the artist, it is enough to create. But real value is added when works are gathered into comprehensive collections like these.
As a repository of societal expression, art displays can open up our minds to what there is outside of our own reality, prompting social reflection, education, and change.
What excites many passionate art patrons is therefore the ability to assemble an entirely unique collection with a wider social narrative.
For instance, the Stellar International Art Foundation aims to give insight into the cultural viewpoints of individuals with diverse understandings of the world.
Through exploration of topics such as racism, poverty, and sexuality, collections like this engender a profound comprehension of humanity and the variety of groups and people within it. Bridges are built, barriers are broken down, and tolerance of diverse beliefs and societies is propagated.
As a non-correlated asset, it is largely impervious to economic uncertainties, such as unpredictable stock markets
We shouldnt underestimate the value of artistic collection as a force for cultural change. One thing that history has taught us is that the world always benefits from listening to a vast array of perspectives and voices, and this is something art champions.
Pablo Picassos Guernica, for instance, is a classic example of art provoking conversation and making a political statement, with his message of protestation regarded by critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history.
In this sense, art instils courage of expression to those who create, as well as those who observe and appreciate.
With recent revelations on the gender pay gap, and movements such as #BlackLivesMatter dominating the political sphere, society is on a path to change.
Art can, and should, be at the forefront of this.
Reaping the rewards
With art running through the veins of every culture, it is unsurprising that many people are also waking up to the value of it as a financial investment.
According to a recent report by Deloitte Art and Finance, 75 per cent of collectors now purchase art with an eye for long-term investment.
This dramatic change in sentiment is partly due to the impressive degree of financial growth in the art market in recent years.
Though paintings often have a price tag, art itself is priceless
Auction records are being broken almost as soon as they are made. Works by Picasso and Paul Gauguin are being sold for over $100m each, and sales across the art market grew to an astounding $51bn in 2014.
It is therefore little surprise that more focus has been given to art as a financial investment.
Art certainly does offer a viable solution for individuals wishing to diversify their financial portfolio. As a non-correlated asset, it is largely impervious to economic uncertainties, such as unpredictable stock markets. It has also historically performed well during times of rising or high inflation.
As a tangible asset, a beautiful work of art is likely to keep its value.
However, remember that investment within the global art market necessitates ample diligence and a degree of good fortune.
Essentially, art must be treated as an asset if it is going to act like one.
Striking a balance
When contemplating an art investment, it is vital to take a step back and take a holistic view. If you want to yield a significant return on your investment, you must carefully consider which artworks will hold their value. But that is only half the story.
Art may well yield significant profit, but in my view, its cultural value is of far greater importance.
Whether we observe art in a gallery or create our own, it is born from passions, and is an investment in people and culture – rather than a means by which to deepen our pockets.
Though paintings often have a price tag, art itself is priceless.