As a young boy, I dreamed of accompanying Jim Hawkins on his quest to find the hidden treasure of Captain J. Flint of the pirate ship The Walrus. The ghosts of six murdered crewmen were said to protect padlocked chests of golden doubloons, precious gems, and jewelry buried on a remote island, the only guide to its location being a tattered old map found in the bottom of a dead man’s chest.
Stories about lost pirate booty, sunken ships filled with the gold and gems of the New World, and missing treasures of antiquity have been repeated generation after generation, mesmerizing listeners with the possibilities and perils of searching for them. Some of the tales are fiction, but others have a nucleus of truth. Whatever their source, the possibility of found treasure continues to inspire adventure-seekers to action.
Famous Fictional Treasure Hunts
Long before steel vaults and guarded treasure rooms, people sought to safeguard their valuables by hiding them in the ground in locations kept confidential via coded maps and complex ciphers. In many cases – such as imprisonment, wars, or death – those privy to the secret were unable to recover the buried assets, resulting in new tales and searches. Plundered gold and gems were lost at sea in transports sunk by pirates, privateers, or storms, plummeting to the depths and scattering across the seafloor to be covered by shifting sands.
These caches of lost valuables sparked the imaginations of storytellers and adventurers alike. Authors and movie-makers are especially adept at mining the lost treasure genre.
I’ve never forgotten the details of my first purchase of an original oil painting, “Going Home” by cowboy artist Jimmy Cox in 1978. The scene is a panorama of a barren, West Texas prairie at dusk, the sky filled with a smattering of light cirrus clouds glowing purple from the setting sun. Three weary cowboys on their exhausted horses are in the forefront of the painting, the effects of their long workday evident in the slumped shoulders of the men and drooping heads of the horses.
While I’ve purchased other paintings and bronze sculptures over the intervening years, no piece of art has replaced my affection — even love — for that painting. It has occupied center stage in my offices for almost 40 years. The scene reminds me of my early childhood in Texas, the satisfaction of physical work, and the persistence required to build a future in any place. I recognize my father, grandfather, and uncles in the riders’ postures and expressions.
Art has always moved us and evoked memories and dreams of other times and places. British playwright George Bernard Shaw is alleged to have said, “You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.”
Unsurprisingly, some are eager to monetize our attraction to fine art, viewing it as a new investment class alongside stocks, bonds, and gold. Investment-grade art can deliver an annual return of 10% or more, according to its advocates. Some say its movement is counter-cyclical to the movement of equities and thus can stabilize a portfolio during periods of volatility. Laurence Fink, CEO of Blackrock Financial, one of the world’s largest fund managers, claimed in a Bloomberg interview that contemporary art is a “serious” asset class and “one of the top two greatest stores of values internationally.”
Is fine art an appropriate investment for everyone? Should you forego the purchase of a stock or bond to buy a painting or invest in an art fund? How does ownership of art differ from traditional investments like stocks, bonds, real estate, or gold? Let’s take a look.
Why Art Attracts Us
Jean-Luc Godard, French film director and father of the New Wave film movement, claims, “Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self.” Art is the physical expression of thoughts and emotions. Creating artwork is intensely personal, with the artist expressing his unique perspective of the world — both real and imaginary — around him.
Research by neurobiologist Semi Zeki of the University College in London found that viewing art triggers a surge of dopamine — the chemical neurotransmitter that makes us feel good — in the brain. The feelings associated with art, Zeki found, were similar to those associated with romantic love.
Fine art — paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and prints — transcends time and space. The perfection of physical beauty captured by Michelangelo’s “David,” the angst of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” and the mystery behind the Mona Lisa’s smile have fascinated viewers for centuries. However, purchasing art to make money is a relatively modern development.
Fine Art as an Investment
For centuries, the ownership of fine art was limited to society’s elite. Only the wealthy — aristocracy, churches, governments, and very successful tradesmen — could afford to purchase or sponsor a piece of art. Displaying a painting or sculpture in a private setting was physical evidence of one’s status. Steven Pritchard, writing in Culture Matters, notes that as early as the Renaissance, ownership of art signified “status, influence, power, and wealth.”
Having a private cinema in your home was once considered the ultimate luxury, available only to movie moguls, film stars, and industry titans with access to restricted film libraries. Joseph Cali, a theater designer and installer for actors George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Tom Cruise, estimates that the minimum cost for a top-of-the-line home theater is upwards of $500,000 — and it can reach millions of dollars depending on amenities.
While such extravagance is beyond the desires and checkbooks of most people, advances in technology have expanded opportunities for middle-income Americans to enjoy the experience of a private video and audio entertainment space.
Today, private media rooms are designed and constructed to replicate the experience of viewing movies and TV shows in a commercial theater in a smaller, more comfortable environment. Most have viewing screens of 16 to 18 feet long with elaborate sound systems and comfortable seating. If you have gamers in your family, a media room can also enable them to play their video games on the big screen.
Is it time for you to consider adding a media room to your home? Let’s take a look at what it entails and how to decide if it’s right for you.
Benefits of a Media Room
The decision to add a media room is rarely based on financial benefits, such as its expected financial return when the house is sold. While these things are a consideration, the real benefit of a media room is the pleasure that you and your family will receive from it.
Of course, this can be difficult, if not impossible, to quantify. A four-member family spends almost 1,785 hours annually watching television; is the additional comfort and control of a home media room worth $1 per hour or $5? It’s hard to say for sure.
What we do know is that for most people, viewing films, playing video games, or listening to music is more pleasurable in their own homes than in a public venue. Poll after poll indicates that the majority of Americans prefer video entertainment in their homes due to their control over the following factors.
A home media room allows the viewer to pick what to watch and when to watch it, including giving them the ability to pause content for bathroom breaks or rewind if they missed something. The plethora of available content providers means that viewers can select from a wide variety of content, including old and new domestic and foreign films, TV shows, sporting events, and documentaries.
When I was a child, my mother and I rode a bus to and from the downtown Wichita Falls, Texas library every Wednesday and Saturday morning. I can still see it now: a brick, three-story building with floor-to-ceiling windows and the children’s section tucked away in the basement. The librarian, a kindly woman with gray-streaked hair, was always there to help me find the three books I could check out with my library card.
Polished wooden benches were scattered across the linoleum floors, each filled with boys and girls looking through books as their parents made their selections from the stacks on the upper floors. Returning home, Mother and I would hurry to sit on the daybed that served as our sofa, where she would read aloud one of my treasures, each filled with colorful pictures and illustrations to enhance the excitement of the narrative.
Those early years of being read to by my mother, father, aunt, and grandmother spawned a voracious appetite for reading that has remained constant for threescore and seven years. In my experience, a love of literature of all types is perhaps the greatest gift any parent could give their child, a passport to distant lands and a time machine to other eras. It can also give your child many advantages in the years to come.
Here’s how reading can help your child succeed, and how to introduce them to the joys of reading.
Literacy vs. Reading
Stories have been a primary medium of communication since the first family clans. Storytellers capture our imaginations, link us to the past, and establish the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Myths and legends passed from one generation to the next explain the unexplainable and remind us of the human values considered essential and ethical, both now and in the past.
In the ancient Western world, only those wealthy enough to afford a life of leisure or those in religious positions had the opportunity to learn to read. With the advent of the printing press, which made reading materials widely available, as well as improvements in public education, literacy became the norm rather than the exception for the common man.
However, the ability to read and write does not necessarily equate to a love of the written word. Many people assume “literacy” and “reading” are the same thing, but the former refers to the ability to read and write, while the latter refers to the act of interpreting printed words. And while most people today have the ability to read, fewer and fewer are doing so for enjoyment.
The State of Reading Today
The percentage of American adults who read any work of literature declined from 56.9% in 1982 to 43.1% in 2015, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. This is even though the percentage of college graduates in the population more than doubled in the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Pew Research reports that one-quarter of Americans did not read a single book, in whole or in part, in 2017.