There was an article in the Wall Street Journal last Friday about children who collect art, and I’m not talking about comic books. According to the story, a number of wealthy art lovers are teaching their children about art by letting them purchase it, including pieces by Rembrandt, Pissarro, and Johns. One girl “bought” her first piece at the age of four, and now at nine she owns 40 works, including a Warhol that hangs above her bed. Another child, an 11-year-old boy, successfully bid on a $352,000 Jeff Koons sculpture last fall at a Sotheby’s auction.
Question: Why do wealthy children often end up spoiled, unadjusted, and in therapy for life? Answer: Because their idiot parents let them buy artwork worth more than most people’s homes before they can even read. I’m not sure I understand how letting a nine-year-old pick out a Warhol constitutes an art lesson. How can the child even comprehend what the work is about? Adults have trouble with that. I think this just boils down to two things. One, the parents are too busy or too distracted to sit down and draw with their kid or read a colorful book about Van Gogh. And two, these children are being used for their parents’ social agenda, as in, “little Jane has the most wonderful taste in art. Look at what she picked out at the gallery this weekend.” This second point is reaffirmed in the article.
Parents also admit there’s a cocktail-party cachet to raising a child who can advise guests on buying a Basquiat. “Vanity does come into it,” says New York real-estate developer Aby Rosen, whose sons are collectors. “People never used to show off their boats and cars and houses and art, but now we can, and that’s great. It’s nice to show off that my son likes art.”
That’s pretty disturbing. If you want your child to love art, you’ve got to put in the time: make art with them, take them to museums, and have it in your home. Teach them to love and respect it. By letting them just walk into a gallery at the age of five and point at a painting and say, “mine”, you are taking the true value and fun out of it. Not to mention, if you own your first Rembrandt in grade school, what will you have to look forward to?