Decorative arts, is historically a term applied to the design and manufacture of functional objects. It includes interior design, but not usually architecture. The decorative arts are often categorized in opposition to the “fine arts”, namely, painting, drawing, photography, and large-scale sculpture, which generally have no function other than to be seen. (after Wikipedia) The image above started life as a image of a steel I-beam sculpture The Calling and is a large-scale sculpture. (see end notes)
Art pieces can be decorative, collectable or both. A decorative art piece is something that is solely intended to be displayed to compliment a defined space. A piece of collectable art is artwork that will likely maintain or increase in value. Obviously they can be one in the same. Obviously some art forms can and do inspire others. Obviously some decorative art pieces will not likely gain in value using any near term time measure. Opinions about which is which will very among collectors, dealers and appraisers. Collecting and/or decorating with art is very personal. The aesthetic sensibility of each person is different. I am a photographer artist. One would expect my home and office to be decorated with photographic art, specifically my own creations. The reality is photography represents only a small percentage of that art and my own is in the minority.
An interior decorator, house dresser or designer, may be mostly concerned with decorating or staging a home or room whereas an art collector or enthusiast may select artwork solely based on how collectible the piece is. Others may decorate with and around collectable artwork. People often buy artwork based on emotion. They see it, it speaks to them on several levels almost all heavy with emotions. Someone else may fall in love with the work of an unknown, because it evokes a meaningful or pleasurable emotion within themselves. Some see or recognize a symbolism in the art and that becomes its greatest attraction. By the same token that person may just as easily see an image and decide that is the one to complement the lampshade in the den.
There are those who would say using art works in purely decorative ways is an art in itself. I would not disagree. It is a vocation and talent for which I make absolutely no claim of proficiency. Successfully staging a room can be rewarding. Rooms can be staged by color, theme, period, purpose and so on. Rooms can be decorated to produce feelings of excitement, peace and calm, mindfulness, or nostalgia. Decorating with art can help define a room’s ambiance.
All that said, we are still left with the question implied in the title. What is the difference or even is there a difference between Fine Photographic Art and Decorative Art? To address that we must revisit our recent essay Fine Art Photography — FAP for a definition of Fine Photographic Art. FPA takes image rendering one or two steps beyond the snapshot into an emotional place that transcends the purpose or location. FPA almost always has a transcendence or universality that ordinary images straight photographs can not quite match. FPA melds together all the compositional, technical and transcendental qualities to give it, and its narrative, a true universality. Just a couple of additional qualifiers. FPA implies, and for me demands, the reproductions meet highest quality of materials and process standards and the editions are strictly limited in number.
In a conversation not long ago, a gallery owner referred to much popular photographic art, as “throwaway art”. At the time we were discussion the appropriate materials and techniques to by used in filling a Fine Photographic Art commission given to Sui Generis Images. I think Disposable Decorative Art (DDA) is a much better descriptor. It is disposable in that the cost is relatively low for what one gets. We have all seen DDA at the box stores, on line or in the framing shops. The images are good if not all to my taste and already framed. Change the room or to refresh the look and the art is easily replaced. The real down side is your neighbors have the exact same thing on there walls, as do the people across the nation or beyond.
Fine Photographic Art is not like that. A good quality FPA piece will cost between 2 and 4 times the DDA piece when presented on the same media at about the same size, for example stretched canvas. The bulk of the DDA may look like it is completed as well, but close inspection shows not. Most often the material media is of lesser or unknown quality.
Since the FPA is limited in production and restricted in the reproductive method, at Sui Generis Images for example archival quality canvas and inks, it has a very good chance of appreciating in value. DDA is mass produced, is available in a variety of sizes and reproductive methods; it is not likely to become a true collectable and not likely to gain in value. My experience with mass produced DDA items is a 50% value reduction once it hangs on your wall.
Sui Generis Images, our sister blog and Fine Photographic Art site has only one product: limited edition, fine photographic art, on archival quality canvas. As I Found It and Ideal Totem, on the other hand, specialize in stock photographic art and stock photography. AIFI’s and IT’s art can be purchased in a variety of sizes and reproduced on any surface or material the customer decides. It is Decorative Art and could be considered DDA.
Please note, the art at Sui Generis Images is unique to itself. Sui Generis Images’, FPA’s are only sold through its web site and authorized dealers. Free, no obligation quotations are gladly provided. Experience our sui generis customer service.
1. The Calling by Mark di Suvero installed in 1981-82 along Milwaukee’s lake front, in O’Donnell Park, it is owned by the Milwaukee Museum of Art, which sits ±200 feet east.
2. Pentafied Calling ©Dennis Nikols 2012 has not been released for sale. This is its first public showing.