Why Are Artists Poor?: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts
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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.
of art subsidies.4 The art world embraced their arguments in favor of art subsidies. Any argument seemed welcome. This eagerness in the art world can arouse suspicions, however. Maybe the numerous new arguments help hide a bad conscience. Maybe Jonathan is right in looking for group interests in art subsidies. The arguments in favor of art subsidies that economists and others have presented all refer to public interest. As noted earlier, a modern gov- ernment’s expenditure no longer
actions of gov- ernment agencies instead. Such interests vary from government agency to agency. Therefore, governments and government agencies can be said to have lasting identities or, metaphorically speaking, personalities. By way of metaphor, a government can be said to ‘need’ art or to ‘prefer’ art, as if the government was a living organism. In this context, it should be noted that the use of ‘government interest’ often serves as a shortcut. When no detailed information is available
sufficient money and be prepared to spend it on the works concerned. The difference, then, between mass and deep-pocket markets is that low prices means more people are able to participate in mass markets than in deep-pocket markets. Thus, market value in deep-pocket markets depends on the willingness of a small group of rich people to pay, while in mass markets it depends on the willingness of large groups of less wealthy consumers to pay. In keeping with our electoral process metaphor,
collective purchas- ing power that determines market value. Average buyers with average tastes enter mass markets in large numbers and so boost the market value of art that experts have deemed to have little aesthetic value. Therefore, the difference in purchasing power between large groups with little cul- tural power and small groups with a lot of cultural power offers a rather obvious, but easily ignored, reason for the occurrence of deviations between mass market aesthetic and market
necessarily. The devia- tions in value reveal differences in power. It took quite an effort to reach this rather obvious conclusion. But this will make it easier to explain deviations in economic and aesthetic value in deep-pocket markets. 8 The Strife for Cultural Superiority in the Visual Arts (An Example) The visual art market is a deep-pocket market. It offers a good opportu- nity for us to discuss the possible deviations between aesthetic and market value. In numerous countries over