Boondoggle

One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Malcolm Gladwell-esque thought of the day

malcolm-gladwellI was wondering…if our economy somehow more aggressively subsidized art, would we have more and better artists?

At first glance, the answer seems obvious. A major disincentive toward producing art for a living is the, er, rather poor remuneration that such work provides. So, make more money available for art (hello solution to the economic crisis?), you’ll have more people who want to become artist, you’ll draw from a larger pool of talent, and you’ll have more and better art. Right?

Well, here’s where the Gladwellian counterpoint comes in. I have no real proof of this (or that Gladwell woud think along these lines), but I suspect that the argument might go something like this: those who become artists are self-selecting; they know there is no money in art, but they choose to pursue a career in it despite this fact. By attracting those who are not in it for the money, the profession of art brings in those who are more committed to the “art” than to the “profession.” Perhaps fewer artists, but those who do go for it are more likely to be of higher quality.

UPDATE: TNR art critic Jed Perl says, basically, it doesn’t really matter.

(image from flickr user Pop!Tech under a Creative Commons license)

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December 15, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

1 Comment »

  1. As one of those starving artists I think you and perhaps Malcolm are right, but there is another layer I am aware of from my own experience; the fact that there are talented potential artists of all different types that may either never start or quit along the way because they are forced to “do something useful” that earns money.

    Today being or rather continuing to be an artist requires an odd combination of being decently talented and stubbornly willing to live at or below the poverty level. The majority of artists I know have some form of income or financial support outside of their art, it’s essential.

    And I’m sure there are plenty of potentially great artist pumping gas or driving a taxi or even running some company. Personally I’m not sure subsidizing art more will change this, to me the real issue is that our culture in general is not very interested or supportive of art and artists, until that changes…

    Comment by gnomechompski | December 15, 2008 | Reply


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