Beyond limits or the format dilemma
Questioning the „philosophical“ importance of the format of an artwork first requires to get rid of the financial and material considerations (this work is over my budget… this work is to big for my place… I don’t really need this work…). Those preoccupations are not exclusive to art (the justification to buy a certain format could be the same for a car or a house…) and linked to a particular place and time.
Buying an artwork because it is fashionable, « miniaturizing » it to make it affordable and movable, splitting it into shares to make it speculable, annihilating a work to make it profitable… as long as there is a specific purpose or constraint behind the acquisition of a certain artwork, the appreciation of its intrinsic value is corrupted. The issue at hand is not possession but emotion.
Considerations of business, social trends, or even reason have do be set aside to concentrate on ones inner feelings, unaltered by everyday life. It does not even need to be passion but something (fascination, attraction, intimidation, repulsion) that moves you from your usual state of being and thinking… something that (consciously or not) challenges your self and routine.
No need to be a collector or connoisseur to experience this introspective process. It is an acknowledgment that can evolve in anyone with time as the enjoyment of art is probably tied to a certain learning process, not only by what you see but also by who you are and what you feel.
From a collector perspective (but also more generally), a smaller format can sometimes appear to mark a comfort zone (as long as it does not turn into rejection guided by the fear of the infinitely large, a claustrophobic instinct of protection). Gaining confidence in yourself and your taste, sheltered and confined, could lead to a point of rupture where its limits are repelled. The acceptance of bigger formats, monumentality and risk could therefore follow the rise of self-confidence… and a certain form of enfranchissement… To refer to the allegory of the cave by Plato it would be „the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world“, into an authentic reality.
There is something intimidating, vertiginous and overwelming about big formats. It is not human-sized, the expression is more free and at the same time more aggressive towards the viewer who his physically in a position of inferiority. But this exposure to looming monumentality is the condition to dive into the work entirely and thereby also into one’s self. It is how the viewer (intended as external and passive to the work) is empowered to be an actor (intended as part of an intimate dialogue with the work and an introspective process). It is up to the person to ascent and become the actor of his own existence, enlightening his soul through art…. and monumentality.
An artwork is not only an object to be possessed but a theater of expression and the realm of transcendence. We remember (scared or fascinated) what lies beyond us and that makes us move forward. This inner value has no worth on the market – because it is invaluable.