Buying Art

I just spent a few days down in Asheville NC during which I spent some time shopping to add to my art collection.  I’ve been collecting art for a long time now, and see the whole art acquisition process as a very good stand in for selling technology products.  Zig Ziggler once said, “You sell the sizzle, not the steak.”, and in both the art and technology worlds you find that what you think you’re selling is very different from what you’re actually selling.

One reason that art makes a good standing for technology is because art is fundamentally technology.  When you see a painting, a print, a book or an image on a screen it is easy to forget that the medium that is used to portray the art is as important as the finished work, and the medium is a technological product. Oil Paint was a technological marvel when created, just as was the printing press, and the JPEG standard. The same image displayed as either an oil painting, a print, or on a screen provides a different value proposition to the end consumer.

In technology sales this corresponds to selling a complete infrastructure, leasing an infrastructure, cloud hosting an infrastructure, and simply offering cloud based services that result in the same output.  Technically you are providing the same end result to the consumer, but the way you present that result changes the value proposition in their minds. It changes how vested the consumer is in the product, and how they are willing to pay.  Just as an oil painting may cost $10,000 but a JPEG of the painting on a computer screen has no monetary value you will find that a $50,000 Exchange Server is considered fair yet many business people will argue about paying for Gmail.

I thought about the value of art a lot on the trip.  My house is rather large and there’s a lot of open wall space.  I want to fill the space in, but neither want cheap trinkets nor to waste money. I find it curious to roam the studios and pondering why one piece for $200 is ridiculous, and yet another for $9,000 is very reasonable.  There is so much that goes into the decision to buy a piece that has nothing to do with the sales technique of the artist themselves.

You look at the medium the art was produced in.  There are a thousand preconceived notions about value that have little to do with anything other than what you personally believe.  An oil painting is more valuable than a pen and ink. A small intricate piece may or may not be more valuable than a larger piece that is less detailed.

You look at the originality of the art.  Is this a one of a kind piece?  Is the piece itself hand made, but the artist is creating nearly identical copies?  Is it a print with a limited run?  Is it a print with an unlimited run?  It is a giclee? What is the value of these different versions of a product?

I personally came to hate giclees.  My less than humble view is that they are garbage to be thrown in the incinerator.  I hadn’t seen many giclees before in my wanderings and was caught off guard by the large amount on sale in Asheville.  You look at a giclee and there’s just something off about them.  It’s hard to tell what it is.  You’re looking at a large piece of art on a canvas that appears to have been hand done, but there is something off.  You can see the brush strokes, you see the canvas texture, but it’s just… then when I looked at the price it seemed a reasonable amount for an original piece by a rather no name artist. $2000 for a 2 x 3 foot piece is reasonable, but there was something that just seemed off.  So I pulled out my iPhone and searched for what a giclee actually is.  To my horror it’s just an ink jet printed copy that’s printed on a canvas.  Basically like what you can guy at Kinkos…  It seems so horrible to me.  So wretched. Not just a bastardization of art, but near a fraud at the prices being asked.

That’s my personal opinion.  It’s not based in anything other than my own bias, but I have ZERO interest in revisiting the idea. Giclees are trash.  Think about this when selling technology.  there are just things that people have zero interest in being interested in.  It may be Bit Coin, or the Dark Web, or some other thing.  No matter how good the product is.  No matter if the price is reasonable people just have no interest in buying it.

Beyond the medium there are so many other factors in buying art.  How the art makes you feel? Does the art have a place you know you can put it?  Do you like the artist?  Do you respect the artist? I’ll pay a premium for an artist I like as a token of knowing how hard it can be to survive as a working artist. When you’re buying and selling art you’re not just selling a product, but you’re also trading in respect, ideas, passions, pulling the squirming mass of the possible into the light of the real.  It’s the moment when one persons precious becomes another’s.

If you’ve never bought real art you should give yourself a small budget and spend time wandering through some galleries and art fairs.  Art can be $10,000 and above, but many times $50 will buy a personally meaningful piece.  Think about what goes through you mind as a non artist.  As someone who does not know how much time it took to produce the work. As someone who does not know the training and experience that got the artist to where they are.  As someone who has no idea the cost difference between acrylics and oils.  Why do you think a piece is, or is not, worth the price on the sticker? I think you’ll find a new appreciation for selling technology if you go to buy art.  That moment when you stare in awe and say, “this one”.  We want there to be some deep and profound reason why we’ll spend $1000 on one piece, but $100 is too much for something close.  The reality is that it’s more of just a feeling.

This is a great piece, at a great price, for the reason that the price is right for a piece like this…

I ended up spending $200 on a blissed out chicken framed in a part of an old screen door.  When I look at the chicken it reminds me of the pure love one of my Chihuahuas exudes.  That moment she has of pure and unadulterated love. I didn’t buy a painting.  I didn’t buy part of an old screen door. I bought the pure essence of an emotion.

When you’re client/ boss comes to you do you really think they’re buying “servers”, or “routers”?  They are buying the feeling of security.  They are paying for the coolness factor of being cutting edge. They are asking you to make them believe in a vision that has yet to be made real.


  1. Brilliant way of thinking about technology! It so easy to get hung up in the actual piece of technology when you’re a geek, but realizing that a client/manager doesn’t care about the physical technology in hand, but cares what that tech provides can be powerful to know. Approaching them for new switches can be a very hard sell, when the old ones still works. But approaching them with the idea of more time, increased productivity, and less waiting seems like you’re a miracle worker.

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