On a trip to Costa Rica a few years ago, I recall walking through souvenir shops the day before I left. I didn’t know what to buy. There was a lot of choose from. I wanted to bring something home. But what? What would I actually put on my shelf? What wouldn’t end up in a box in the closet?? I walked around for an hour before I settled on a couple small items. But what was really causing my indecision? There was no purpose behind my search.
A year later, on a trip to Bangladesh, I met a guy about my age who told me that everywhere he went, he bought a decorative box. He didn’t know why, he was just collecting something and he collected a small box from every country. Something about that idea made sense–he wasn’t buying random items, but collecting a theme that had meaning to him.
Artist at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
My next major trip after that was to Haiti in 2008. I had read that Haitian art was particularly notable. Indeed, they had a large art district near the center square in Port-Au-Prince. Out in front of my hotel (Hotel Montana, which completely collapsed in the earthquake) there was a stand with a couple art dealers. I walked out one day and negotiated for the piece: $20. Naturally, it went up on my wall at home immediately. And I loved it. It was a reminded me of the places I visited, I had met the artist, and it was a great talking point when people came to visit.
On ever subsequent trip, I try to buy art. My goal is to one-day have a house full of unique art from around the world that reminds me of the places I’ve been and people I’ve met. I never pay more than $20 for a piece and I buy direct from artists–usually in markets. Often, the basic frame that the piece later goes into costs 3-4 times more than the art itself. This goal is actually coming to fruition rather quickly–we already have more art than wall space.
I highly recommend this practice of collecting something–if not art, then boxes or handbags or masks or carvings. Collecting something provides purpose rather than a compulsion to buy a souvenir. The following is a glimpse into my art collection through my five favorite pieces. Continue Reading →