The Secret to Success Could Lie in the Type of Art You Collect

If the art that you surround yourself with reflects who you aspire to be, then the art you are living with will help to reinforce that person you desire to become.

A work by Kehinde Wiley owned by Mario Testino is hung in preparation for sale. Michael Bowles/Getty Images for Sotheby's

Autumn has always been one of my favorite seasons of the year, especially in New York City. The holidays are on the horizon and the crisp days remind me that all things are renewed in the fall. This is always one of the busiest times in the art world: fairs are bustling in Europe while in the United States and Mexico people gear-up for their upcoming spring arts events. During this time of the year, I often reflect not just about the general trajectory of the art world but also about life in general. Art, after all, provides us with chronological records of periods in human history and contemplative windows into how broader humanity has been experienced and lived in different lifetimes. Certain seasons speak to us more than others because they complement the rhythms of our lives—the music compositions we make of our ourselves just by the mere act of living and the narratives we create, tell, and communicate from how we see and define ourselves. Art plays a role because it gives us permission to daydream about the future, envisioning the person we’re striving to be.

It is important to ask ourselves about the art we choose to live and surround ourselves with: Is the art you live with a reflection who you are today or does it best reflect the person you were yesterday or a long time ago? Does the art you currently live with represent the person you aspire to be? If it is who you are today—then it will reinforce your current situation and will help to keep you there. If it is who you were, but no longer want to be, it will weigh you down and become another heavy bag of a past long gone that you have not let go. And finally, if the art that you surround yourself with reflects who you aspire to be, then the art you are living with will help to reinforce that person you desire to become and in the process elevate you to that better vision of yourself.

A reason why F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby resonates so much in the American psyche is because it represents a piece of cultural narrative of what it means to be an American, that is, the idea that we can reinvent ourselves again and again and again. Similar to this literary masterpiece, other American Art, particularly Contemporary American Art, is a raw representation of what we project personally and socially onto the idea of America, and which moves us to imagine something more for ourselves. Art gives us permission to strive for and achieve something higher. It allows us to imagine that there is something unique, special, and powerful in each of us. For example, when Ralph Lauren was asked to share his thoughts about his fashion label, he simply replied by saying that he does design clothes, but that he designed dreams. In other words, he sells wearable art pieces that are aspirational, that is, pieces that allow the persons wearing it to experience being the person they aspire to be. The tweed jacket and the linen dress, just like a Picasso, represent much more than the canvas or material that make up the pieces. If done right, this wearable art represents your potential, the vision of who you are or can become. The first step to reaching a higher self is to attain a sincere and true belief that it is possible—it is arguably this same belief of the American Dream that has allowed so many to succeed. There is power in that simple and profound truth—mountains and feats at unimaginable levels suddenly become attainable realities.

Ideals drive much of what we do in business and our own personal lives. It is ultimately these ideals that come to define and enable us to reach our goals both materially and spiritually. These ideals allow us to continue on despite the forces around us that seek to consume us. The key to success, happiness, and living a fulfilling life is to nurture the idealistic part within us. That part that so much of modern life has relegated to second-class status. Art has always been an expression of these ideals, of who we are or would like to be as individuals and collectively as people. Art is also a tool and marker to be used for our benefit when dealing with blessings and challenges in life: births, heartaches, unions, breakups, losses, illnesses, deaths, mortality, and even long-lasting legacies of ourselves and for our loved ones. Throughout life, we are confronted with situations and stages that serve to prepare us for the bigger challenges we are all destined to face. This is why I choose to surround myself with art that helps me understand my place in the world and to cope with the existential reality many of us have been taught to avoid in our modern life. Art has power and it seeks to transform. If art is incorporated well into your life, then it can serve to enrich your life’s journey.

As I bundle up to walk out and start daily life, the coldness of fall reminds me of the existential journey that life confronts us all with. I believe part of the mission in life is to create spaces that authentically reflect who each of us is or who we aim to be.  This is why incorporating art into all aspects of life—in the office, classroom, and home—is an opportunity to turn seemingly mundane experiences into enriching and empowering moments—ones that can elevate us both materially and spiritually. Joseph Campbell says it best when he writes, “the goal in life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.” Art in all its melodious mysteries gets us there both personally and collectively.


Georges Berges is the owner of Georges Berges Gallery in SoHo, NYC and of Berges Creative Group, an art advising firm dealing primarily with the secondary market. Visit his website at and follow him on Twitter @georgesberges and Instagram @bergesgallery The Secret to Success Could Lie in the Type of Art You Collect