Why Are Artists Poor?: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The economy of the arts is exceptional. Although the arts operate successfully in the marketplace, their natural affinity is with gift-giving, rather than with commercial exchange. People believe that artists are selflessly dedicated to art, that price does not reflect quality, and that the arts are free. But is it true?
This unconventional multidisciplinary analysis explains the exceptional economy of the arts. Insightful illustrations from the practice of a visual artist support the analysis.
instance, on the basis of this analysis, one would expect that if (some of) the subsidized avant-garde visual art had continued to develop into esoteric and inaccessible areas, it would have served the government less well, and the government would have gradually lost interest in it. In a different situation government could just as easily lose interest if, for instance, ever more television contests cheapen mainstream subsidized G O V E R N M E N T TA S T E S E R V E S D I S P L AY 249
artists. Without any conspiratorial intent, they ‘naturally’ came up with the same selec- tion of galleries. The members of the two committees were gatekeepers of the same informal barrier that surrounds ‘quality’ galleries.18 5 Characteristics of Informal Barriers In the example above, experts used an implicit definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ galleries, and thus defined boundaries and barriers. The ‘good’ gal- leries that are on the inside belong to a privileged circle; the ‘bad’ galleries
introduction – are largely pre- dictable. VA L U E S A R E S H A R E D 59 Why are artisits poor? 02-04-2002 12:15 Pagina 60 4 There is No Such Thing as a Pure Work of Art Are art lovers correct in saying that aesthetic value is independent of values such as market value and other social values? If the various spheres are indeed independent or non-reciprocal, then there is either no relation between aesthetic and market value, or market value adapts itself to aesthetic value, but not
friends also see me that way. They note how I stubbornly do my own thing year after year, ignoring customers and the art world at large. (However, I must admit, that on occasion, I catch myself showing off this selfless devotion when I’m among friends. Why do I do it? It wor- ries me, but I try not to think about it.) As an economist, I believe that artists, like everybody else, are selfish; they try to ‘better themselves’, whether they are conscious of it or not. This is the only way that
per hundred thousand inhabitants. The signaling effect can even further exacerbate the effect of subsidies on incomes because instead of the situation where there are more people earning the same low income, incomes may actually decline. 7 Subsidies and Donations Intended to Alleviate Poverty Actually Exacerbate Poverty As was noted earlier, the desire to raise artists’ incomes is the intended function of many arts subsidies. Even when it isn’t the subsidy’s primary function, it