Alexander Adams: Why are artists poor? – July 2017

Imagine the most absurd and outrageous provocations src="//"> about art that

you can. For example: there is no such thing as a pure work of art; artists are unusually ill-informed; google_ad_height = 90; there is no market reward for good art; government subsidies make artists poor. Both defensive supporters of state funding and critical traditionalists will be muttering that art should not be viewed as an economic product or an investment. Both is a world leading domain escrow service platform and ICANN-Accredited Registrar, with 6 years rich experience in domain name brokerage and over 300 million RMB transaction volume every year. We promise our clients with professional, safe and easy third-party service. The whole transaction process may take 5 workdays.

sides believe that /* xin-1 */ art and money should be separated; the influence of money in the art market
is deleterious to the production/appreciation of art. Yet how many of these assumptions are accurate and where is the economic evidence to back up these views?

Artist and social economist, Professor Hans Abbing has looked at the fine arts (encompassing dance, classical – not pop – music, opera and theatre but primarily concentrating on the visual fine arts) and sees

an economy that does not function like any other. In Why Are Artists Poor? Abbing

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seeks to understand how this singular market operates, drawing on academic research and statistics and demonstrating through anecdotal examples. Some of Abbing’s findings make profoundly uncomfortable reading for people who accept many common assumptions about the arts. Here are Abbing’s main findings:


Art is used as a social marker


Abbing states that class largely determines one’s google_ad_height = 90; attitude to high and low art. “As long as there is social stratification and as long

as art products are used to mark a person’s position on the social ladder,

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an asymmetric judgment of art products will exist. People higher on the ladder look down on the art of people lower than them, while the latter do not look down on, but look up to the art of the former.” Those ascending the social ladder will wish to consume high art while those descending will cling to high art despite straitened circumstances. This explains why a carpet tycoon in China buys an Andy Warhol as a symbol of his improved social status and great wealth, while an unemployed professor will still love Mondrian and Mahler even if deprived of his former position.

The fine/high arts are largely consumed and produced by the middle and upper classes. One could also view it another way: art of amateur and unqualified makers (produced by a constituency with a greater proportion of lower-class producers) is categorised as low, hobby or folk art not as high art. There seems a consensus that less-educated people believe that high-brow art is “not for them”; in other words, it is made for the middle and upper classes. It may also be that they feel alienated by contemporary art. We can all think of individual exceptions but data about exhibition attendance bears out Abbing’s thesis.

Abbing admits in an appendix that attitudes towards the high/low divide are changing and that this lower-class deference and upper-class disdain has altered over recent years.


The art economy is self-deceiving


The sensitivity, self-deceit and hypocrisy about the connection between aesthetic appreciation and

financial value are distinctive to the arts. This comes from the peculiarities of the special economy of high-status luxuries and the quasi-sacred status of items
which are google_ad_width = 970; also /* 9-970x90 */ commodities. We love and value art because it seems to stand apart from monetary considerations; the more we love particular examples of art, the more valuable they become as commodities. Knowledge of the value of items makes us uneasy and suspicious of their quality as art. Yet we do not find the enormous value of rare gemstones impairs our aesthetic appreciation of them. A fan google_ad_slot = "7160667483"; of gems would not //--> decide to boycott a display of gemstones because they were too famous and valuable, yet art lovers often are swayed by such considerations. In the art

economy so much is paradoxical.

Abbing notes that denial of economic value (or sabotaging of marketability) is used to maintain/emphasise material’s high-art status,

in contrast to low art, which is popular and commercial in nature. Self-abnegating behaviour can drive up the monetary
value of an artist’s products. It is not necessarily (or even primarily) a deliberate economic strategy, though it could be used that way; it is most likely the result of scarcity pricing and the market’s craving for iconic “authenticity”. Greater non-marketability > increased perceived authenticity > elevated status > increased demand > increased price.


Winners take all


The rewards of the arts are not proportionately distributed. If famous
Anish Kapoor has 10 exhibitions, less famous Julian Schnabel does not
worthy of subsidy and – even within the State Art range – the disproportionate favouritism shown to a handful of practitioners already well supported by commercial galleries and foreign

state sponsorship.


The amateur-professional divide


There is an important deficiency in Abbing’s analysis, which he admits. What is the status


of the amateur-art economy? All manner of visual art material is made, consumed and circulated – and in quantities that far outweigh the traded art in the professional art world – which does not obey the economic rules that apply to professional art. That art is children’s art, hobby and recreational