Placeholder Art

28 Sep 2020

Last week I was listening to the latest episode of Make Do and near the end the conversation turned to generic art from a department store.

The mass-produced prints from IKEA, Target, etc. remind me of bringing store-bought baked goods to a party versus making a cake. Both fulfill the function of being a dessert, but they aren’t equal. There’s an intentionality to baking a cake or finding a unique print for your wall that the store-bought version doesn’t have.

When you bake a cake or hang “real” art you’re asking other people to ask you about it. Not just in the sense of fishing for compliments (though who doesn’t want people to say you have great taste?), but about the journey you went through for it to be here, now. How you baked the cake, or finally bought a piece by an artist you admired, or how you stumbled upon the piece at a local farmers’ market.

A generic photo of pebbles or the Golden Gate Bridge is there to be, effectively, a placeholder in your room. It fills space in an aesthetically pleasing way, but doesn’t prompt a conversation. Someone might say they like it, but the only conversation to be had is “thanks, I picked it up at Safeway on my way here.”

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