It seems the relationship between art and money is popping up in our cultural psyche as of late. I just finished reading Make Art, Make Money*, which is why it’s on my mind. Funny enough several articles have come out in the past week that touch upon the relationship between art and money.
The first article I’ll discuss is by Hrag Vartanian on HyperAllergic. On January 23rd a group of experts discussed the financial realities facing artists. The author touches upon the rising cost of schooling for all college studies, which includes art school. This talk was run by Coco Fusco and Noah Fischer. The discussion they brought to light involves how society and institutions communicate that art is not about money but about a higher calling. This puts art students in a bind: should they continue their school at great cost and risk for their future? Ironically the discussion was held at Cooper Union, a school with a longstanding tradition of free-tuition for accepted students, that just changed last year to a paying program.
This week’s topic has me thinking, why do we pretend that art and money have no connection? Why do we act as if art is tainted if money becomes part of the discussion? It’s as if the only noble art is “discovered” by someone else, who then promotes and manages the business end. I wonder, is this part of why the gallery system exists in the first place? Since when is art not “work?”
Views that emerged in the 18th century reinforce this separation between art and work. We’ve encouraged a notion of art being unconstrained and that artists must be free from rules. If this is true, I can see why “work” and financial discussions became a distant relative, if not stranger, to art.
And yet, that doesn’t make it right. Great art takes commitment, time and effort (cough, cough, work). Consider Renaissance masterpieces by Michelangelo. He had a job. It was to make art on behalf of the people who hired him, usually the Catholic Church. In fact, he didn’t even believe IN that institution or it’s mission! Yet, his work today is still considered some of the best in the world. He was hired to do art that promoted the Church and was paid well AND recognized for his skill. Is his work now tainted for you?
This article suggests encouraging “cashless creativity is elitest.” Think about it. Saying art is above money puts it in the purview of people with leisure time (and money). How can we have a world where everyone practices art if we elevate it to something that alienates an entire portion of our world population?
We need to celebrate that art can be a means to make money. Grounding art in work and finances may actually allow more people to participate in the arts. And maybe more art schools will actually give art students the business tools and skills they need to run an independent entrepreneurial enterprise.
Some artists are willing to own the business side of art and some aren’t. I enjoyed this week’s article about how art is found for TV shows. Even in this more light-hearted article we can see the conception of art as this elevated, precious (above money?) practice come into play. One gallery manager who rents art to studios says some artists feel renting their art is “beneath them.”
Why do we believe art and business do not mix? Why do we believe art is somehow tarnished by financial discussions, or “selling?” How does the worth of the work change?
Does this come from the highly personal ownership artists often feel towards their own art? If you want to get into sticky territory, ask a bunch of artists why or why not their art should be in the public domain. I posted about this in several forums and man did people get heated about it! People literally took offense that an artist they didn’t know (who also makes a full time living from her art) shared her art as part of the public domain. She keeps no copyright on any of her work. Copyright has always appeared to be a tool to protect the artist, yet a minority of people are beginning to speak up and say this isn’t true. In fact, it may be our misunderstandings about creativity that created our (flawed?) copyright system in the first place!
We have a lot of good, meaty stuff out there this month that touch upon the importance of the arts and our underlying assumptions about it.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Have you considered any of these cultural assumptions about art? Which ones have influenced you and your creativity? How?