Why are People Interested in Art?
Or: is it objectionable to buy the red painting because it suits the sofa?
To answer the second question beforehand: I think it is not objectionable at all. It is a valid motivation. 100 art buyers will present 100 different motivations why they are buying art. The point that actually counts is that there is an openness and interest for art.
So maybe the better question to ask is: why do people feel attracted to art?
Art is about knowledge
What is art, and what is "making art" about, anyway? The German word for art is "Kunst". Many people still think that "Kunst" derives from "können" - which is true, only that very few are aware that the original meaning of "können" was: to know something.
So a piece of art/Kunst is a kind of "data packet", a tangible object containing knowledge. Art materializes and concentrates information (preconscious, unconscious, anticipated), cognitions, data, energy. All this is made available to the viewer simultaneously in a sensually perceptible form. The philosopher Benedetto Croce (1866 - 1952) said: "The artist perceives more than we others." If the world is a book we just able to read the index. The artist however is able to read the book's chapters - each artist another chapter.
Art is thus about knowledge - and knowledge counts as an asset in economic studies. Whoever possesses knowledge, more knowledge than the others, has a lead over his competitors.
Art requires contemplation and stillness
When I was young I studied languages, today I speak five. I still remember all that work I put into my studies, and how we all fancied about a chip that you just must implant into your brain and at the blink of an eye you are able to perfectly write and speak a new language. (To my knowledge not such invention has yet been made...)
Transfer of knowledge through art happens different from the ways we usually acquire knowledge. It happens in a way of "transmission": If you open yourself to a piece of art, new knowledge emerges within yourself. It is knowledge that is probably hard to describe in words (otherwise the artist could have written a reference book). Nevertheless it is knowledge. It is knowledge similar to that one received as a child, sitting on grandpa's lap, listening to endless stories... Knowledge similar to that one acquired helping grandmother with cooking.
In both cases it is participating in another person's experience, a knowledge that might not be applicable in the immediate situation, but nevertheless, looking at the big picture: it is knowledge essential to decision making.
Right now there are different research groups working with knowledge transfer between art - economy - science - philosophy. Consultants like Dr. Michael Brater (adviser to dm-Drogeriemarkt, Germany) favour artistic intervention as a strategy to survive within a constantly changing economic environment. In this context artists become precursors and sign posts.