The changing social-economic position of the arts

The Art Period, on the changing social-economic position of the arts – provisional TOC and summary of forthcoming book

Abbing – Draft TOC of book The Art Period – June 2016.docx 6/21/2016
Extended draft table of contents (and “summary”). Publication date of the book: 2018 (or earlier).
A draft of Part III Rejection of Commerce in the Arts is now (also) available on:
Hans Abbing (
THE ART PERIOD. On the changing social‐economic position of the arts.
(The, what I call, “art period” is the period from the middle of the nineteenth century till circa 1980. Typical for the period is that art is
serious, much respected and exclusive, and that commerce is rejected. Presently there is a process of re-commercialization; art
remains attractive but there is less respect for art.)
1. The art period and the art ethos
1. Introduction. The art period and the art ethos
2. There is much respect for art.
3. Respect for art is widely shared. Disrespect is punished.
4. Geniuses, masterpieces, celebrations and magnificent buildings mark the greatness of art
5. Now respect for art is no longer self‐evident. Public support for art goes down.
2. Autonomous and Useful
1. Aside: On the non‐existing intrinsic value and the inevitable usefulness of art.
2. Art and artists have an exceptional and high social status in a unified world of art.
3. In an art environment artworks are increasingly appreciated for themselves
4. Markets continue to contribute to an expansion of art consumption and the autonomy of artists
5. Markets continue to contribute to the development of art and the social status of artists
6. Art continues to be used for decorative, recreational, political and economic purposes [and artists often agree].
7. Artistic autonomy is a privilege as well as right.
8. Over time the notion of artistic autonomy changes. This has an impact on the kind of freedom artists have.
3. In Search for One’s Self and for the Sublime.
1. Individual expression in art is much appreciated
2. Art brings enchantment in a dis‐enchanted world
3. Bourgeois long for freedom and authenticity, and they search for a self. Artists are thought to be authentic individuals.
4. Art consumption contributes to the construction and expression of personal and group identities
5. Art serves the exploration as well as the sublimation of hidden desires and emotions
4. A Serious Art Setting in Concert Halls, Theatres and Art Museums
1. Aside: A classical music concert and a pop concert
2. Subdued behavior is typical for art performances and art museums
3. Ambience, formal behavior and protocol can contribute to an attractive atmosphere
4. Distractions and interferences with performance and exhibition are taboo
5. Restraint, modesty and impersonality are virtues. Together art lovers want to be alone with art.
6. The arts have lost much of their identity making quality to the popular arts. [Now popular art consumption contributes
most to the construction and expression of personal and group identities]
5. Authenticity, Aura and Authorship
1. “Artists and artworks must be authentic”
2. Unique artworks have authority and aura
3. “The artist is in the work.” The symbolic value of authorship is extremely high.
4. An obsession with correct attribution and authorship
5. People want to know which is the genuine work. Much money is spend on the restauration and preservation of art
6. Music performances must be authentic
7. Contributions by others are not acknowledged. Creative artists find it hard to collaborate.
8. Over the last decades artists have lost their monopoly on creativity and authenticity.
6. Separation of Art and Entertainment
1. Art becomes serious. Classics replace contemporary, fashionable and entertaining art
2. Classification, insulation and an art setting define art. Uncivilized behavior and mixtures of art and entertainment become
3. Nonprofits enable the separation of art and entertainment and contribute to de‐commercialization of the arts.
4. Vulgar “inferior” and popular art are removed.
5. Reproduced art is put down.
6. At home the boundary between art and entertainment is weak.
7. In public space art worlds control only part of art.
8. Now educated people increasingly consume popular music, popular visual art, musical, cabaret and film —but not as art.
9. Borders Fade
7. Exclusion and Inclusion
1. The family of art is cultured, well‐to‐do, educated and white.
2. The exclusion of other social and ethnic groups among audiences is persistent and not experienced as a problem. Artisticquality
comes first.
3. Lower class people are thought to be inferior or incompetent
4. “Others” are excluded on the basis of their appearance. High prices contribute to exclusion.
5. Various pricing policies foremost serve inclusion and exclusion
6. Much exclusion is informal and automatic.
7. The absence of alternative settings contributes to exclusion.
8. Education and art subsidies are used to disseminate art among lower social groups.
9. The attempts of the labor movement and leftist artists to democratize art are not supported by their art worlds
10. Difficult art, intellectualization and a discourse of familiarity contribute to exclusion.
8. The Purchase of Exclusivity
1. What do people “buy” when they purchase art? Among others they buy membership in various distinguished groups.
2. Distinction still matters
3. Art is becoming less useful for the domination of lower social groups
4. For the very rich the possession of expensive artworks continues to be attractive
9. Disapproval of Art being for Sale
1. “Art is too precious and personal to be sold.”
2. “Artworks must not be interchangeable. Economic value must not stand for quality.”
3. In the arts a culture of giving exists.
4. Commerce and the commodity nature of much art is veiled. The badness of exchange is compensated by good deeds.
10. Rejection of Commercialism and Compromise
1. Artists did not always reject making “commercial” art and marketing their work.
2. “Artists must not give in to consumer wishes and compromise” The line between profit‐for‐art and profit‐not‐for‐art is
thin. Artists are easily accused of being commercial.
3. To prevent shaming artists veil making also commercial art, accept a low standard of living, have “innocent” second jobs
and take no commissions.
4. Artists cannot ignore consumer demand. Many negotiate to maximize their autonomous space. Autonomy and voice may
well conflict.
5. Aside: Market demand influences artistic choices in litle noticed ways.
6. “Demands of donors and sponsors must not influence artistic choices.”
7. Marketing and self‐branding by artists is taboo.
8. A restrained cultural entrepreneurship is now acceptable and promoted. A commercial logic infiltrates the art ethos. A
commercial logic infiltrates the art ethos. Criticism revives.
11. Worries about Market Forces and a Commercial Culture
1. “Art must be free.” “It cannot be privately owned.” “It is sacred.”
2. “Art has special merits.” Subsidization can contribute to low prices that enable and persuade people to consume art.
Economists plead for price discrimination rather than low prices for everybody.
3. “Public goods and external effects in the arts require public funding and subsidies.” Many economists demand restraint
and recommend marketization.
4. There is re‐commercialization in the arts. The new critics of commerce fear that this will have similar negative effects as
exist in the popular arts.
5. “A culture industry produces dumbing popular art.” Along with changes in capitalism and a re‐commercialization in the
arts the criticism of commerce revives.
6. Commerce contributes to the reproduction and amplification of capitalist and neo‐liberal values by ar, but this does not
stop protests. The arts loose their exceptional position.
7. Aside: are claims of little diversity, triviality and manipulation in the popular arts justified?
8. Aside: Thanks to commerce the popular arts are relatively democratic. All social groups have access to popular music
consumption and production. The recycling of styles gives consumers time to “learn” art.
12. New Art Worlds
1. Governance in the worlds of art was formal and becomes not‐formal.
2. New style art worlds govern only part of art production. The art ethos facilitates the attuning of judgments and actions.
3. Art worlds define and guarantee artistic‐quality.
4. Art worlds conserve art and keep up tradition [by promoting classic works].
5. Art worlds guard progress in art
6. Art worlds demand unity. Conflicts are solved.
7. Aside: Two major conflicts in the twentieth century; one in the visual arts, the other in classical music
8. An uneasy relationship exists between consumers and other art world participants.
9. Over the last decades art world authority goes down
13. Financial Support of Art and Art worlds.
1. Introduction. Support is extensive. Artists and art companies also “support” art.
2. Supporting art brings good feelings. Various justifications for public support are presented. Aims and effects differ.
3. Support is thought to counter commerce, protect autonomy and promote innovation. In the US rich donors are best
trusted; in Europe governments.
4. Governments, foundations and corporations strengthen art worlds by facilitating recognition processes.
5. Aside: Support is never for free.
6. Conclusions. Over the last decades governments no longer cover cost increases. In relation to the size of the population
public support goes down.
14. Promotion of Classics. Commerce and the Balance of Power in Art Worlds
1. Art worlds promote extreme winners.
2. Art worlds care about the correspondence between quality and market‐success. Rich consumers are best trusted to go for
3. Due to a successful attuning of judgments in art worlds] Art worlds are successful in keeping market‐success broadly in
line with artistic‐quality. There is more correspondence than in the popular arts.
4. Consumer choices matter for artistic developments.
5. Art worlds are more commercial than they appear to be.
6. Art worlds are successful in restraining commercial companies. This also applies to classical music, but less so to
7. Art worlds differ in strength. Vested interests and much support weaken the classical music art world].
8. Art worlds are becoming openly commercial. They believe to be still in control of commerce and this increases their
15. Many Artists, Few Rewards
1. The “willingness” of artists to work for low incomes increases during the art period. A majority of artists earns very little
and a large proportion is poor.
2. The typical artist comes from a well‐to‐do family. The typical artist has second jobs.
3. State controlled and increasingly expensive professional art education contributes to the underrepresentation of ethnic
and lower class social groups among artists.
4. The number of artists increases much during the art period. Developments in the demand for art and in subsidies have an
impact on the income and number of artists, but the relation is far from straightforward.
5. The arts profession is very attractive. Artists are thought to be free.
6. Artists have a special status.
7. Deciding to become artist youngsters go with the flow while imagining profound rewards.
8. Being‐artist is a self‐declared state which needs confirmation.
9. Art world recognition offers confirmation of being a real artist. Artists long for recognition. Many passively wait to be
10. Having voice is important for artists. A lack of voice causes distress.
11. Recognition and income are prerequisites for autonomy, self‐realization and voice. A lack of these and high art world
demands cause distress.
12. Poverty in the arts causes hardship. Artists are privileged but not well off.
13. Artists are not “compensated”. Due to a forceful art ethos not many artists leave the arts.
14. The inner‐art world exploitation of artists is considerable and growing.
SOMETHING GAINED, SOMETHING LOST (Conclusion and Discussion)
1. Is the art period coming to a close?
2. A more view on commerce in the arts and popular arts is called for. The arts can learn much from the popular arts
3. Among artists “activism” increase: Artists become more entrepreneurial and more critical.