And do we not all long to throw down our altars and rid ourselves of our possessions? Do we not gaze coldly at our clutter and say, “If these objects express my personality, then I hate my personality.” For what, on the face of it, enhances life less than a work of art? One tires of it. One cannot eat it. It makes an uncomfortable bedfellow. One guards it, and feels obliged to enjoy it long after it has ceased to amuse. We sacrifice our freedom of action to become its privileged guardian, and we end its imprisoned slave. All civilizations are by their very nature “thing-oriented” and the main problem of their stability has been to devise new equations between the urge to amass things and the urge to be rid of them.
But things have a way of insinuating themselves into all human lives. Some people attract more things than others, but no people, however mobile, is thingless. A chimpanzee uses sticks and stones as tools, but he does not keep possessions. Man does. And the things to which he becomes most attached do not serve any useful function. Instead they are symbols or emotional anchors. The question I should like to ask without necessarily being able to answer it is, “Why are man’s real treasures useless?” For if we understood this, we might also understand the convoluted rituals of the art market.,
Bruce Chatwin Anatomy of Restlessness