THESES SUMMARY (2700 words)

This is a “kind of” summary consisting of the theses that commence each of the 95 sections of the book. The phrase “period of serious art” refers to a period from circa 1880 to circa 1980.

The page can be downloaded by printing it to PDF (Ctrl p) and, if one wishes, next be printed for real.

Although in the present tense, most theses refer to the position of the arts before 1980, a position which may or may not have changed since that time. The theses and the overall text foremost apply to the Western world, especially Europe, Australia and Canada and in a slightly lesser degree to the US. Many recent developments also occur in Asian countries. I pay some attention to differences between Europe and the US.

Not all theses are proven the way a scientist likes to prove a thesis, but I have attempted to show that they are, at least, plausible. Because the topic of the book is very broad and I aim to develop general theories that explain major developments in the social economy of art, I need such plausible theses. As far as possible I base my findings on many conversations with experts, publications and empirical research by others and, last but not least, on own (participating) observation.

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(1) These are exciting times in the arts…..


A High Respect for Art

(4) Over time the arts start to stand out. In the 19th century a period of serious art commences.

(5) During the period of serious art: Art is much respected and art and artists have a high status. Respect for specific art evokes respect for all art.

(6) During the period of serious art: Celebrations and magnificent buildings mark the greatness of art. Various, intangible as well tangible, symbolic “pedestals” testify of the greatness of art.

(7) During the period of serious art: Respect for art is high and disrespect is punished. This has changed. Cuts in subsidies are still criticized but no longer stopped.

Separation of art and entertainment

(8) During the period of serious art: Prosperity and an expanding market economy in the arts contribute to the triumph of art.

(9) Before the period of serious art, Art was entertaining, contemporary and fashionable. Behavior in halls and theaters was disorderly.

(10) During the period of serious art: Art and entertainment are separated. art consumption is insulated. a proper classification, etiquette and setting are established. Non-profits enable the separation of art and entertainment.

(11) During the period of serious art: Art continues to be used for “decoration”, distinction and the realization of political and economic goals.

(12) Intermezzo. Moral values and measured values differ. Artworks have no universal and timeless core. Artworks have intrinsic and extrinsic value. Art is always useful. An “art for art’s sake” makes no sense. Purposeless art does not exist. Many artists attempt to only pursue artistic goals.

Art-worlds with authority

(13) During the period of serious art: Art-worlds govern the production of serious art and control the number of serious artists. Earlier, guilds, rulers and academies governed art production. In an intermediary period, markets are relatively free and commercialism is not taboo.

(14) Art-worlds have various means of gatekeeping. Being admitted to state accredited art education and receiving subsidies helps to become an art-world-recognized artists. Being a recognized artist is important for artists.

(15) During the period of serious art: Art-worlds differ in flexibility and strength. The classical/serious music art-world is strong and inflexible. Vested interests are important. There is path-dependency. The nature of art-buildings matters.

(16) During the period of serious art: Art-worlds guard progress. Successful innovations are thought to have been necessary. New art must represent a next step in a longer-term development.

(17) During the period of serious art: Within art-worlds, a quality hierarchy of artworks, genres and artists exist. Quality judgments change with time. Art-world unity must be maintained.

(18) During the period of serious art: Art-worlds maintain a public art heritage. Art classics are created which are extreme winners. In the art-world of serious music, they contribute to fossilization. Guarding progress is only possible with knowledge of what went before. It requires a preserved and accessible art heritage.

(19) In the period of serious art: Art-worlds can only exist and be strong thanks to much government and donor support. Various justifications are given.

Innovative art and mainstream art

(20) During the period of serious art: In successive stages, art-worlds put more restraining demands on artists. In the twentieth century, new art must be innovative. Tendentious art is rejected. In the arts, a domain of restricted production exists.

(21) During the period of serious art: After the development of a succession of new genres, major conflicts arise, but unity is restored.

(22) Excurse. There is much artistic innovation in popular music. Application of cost-saving techniques promotes innovation.

(23) In popular art and the serious arts, innovations diffuse in different ways. Mainstream is taboo in the arts. Recycling of styles and imitation art stimulate the diffusion of innovations in popular art.


In search of an “authentic self”

(24) Introduction. The art-setting affects the art experience. Consumers develop own “artworks” with own “narratives” and meanings. the “work itself” does not exist.

(25) During the period of serious art: Art brings enchantment in a dis-enchanted world. Bourgeois envy artists for their freedom. An ideal of authenticity and autonomy is important in modernity

(26) Intermezzo. Freedom, autonomy and autonomous space.

(27) Artworks are expressive and personal. The artist is “in the work”.

(28) During the period of serious art: Art serves introspection. People search for an “authentic self”.

(29) During the period of serious art and after: The atmosphere in art-buildings is serious and subdued. Protocols exist. Outside the buildings, art-settings are less imposing.

(30) During the period of serious art and after: Distractions are thought to go at the cost of an intense art experience. Much self-control is demanded from audiences.

An obsession with authenticity, authorship and aura

(31) First introduction. Expressive authenticity, nominal authenticity, authentic work and genuine work.

(32) Second introduction. Original, multiple, re-composition, Art-in-the-style-of, replica, reproduction, production and related terms.

(33) Performances must be authentic.

(34) The obsession with authenticity and the consequent aversion of the application of new technologies cause ever higher cost of production in the performing arts. In music this “cost disease” contributes to the decline of classical/serious music.

(35) Visual artworks must be authentic. Authorship is important. A correct attribution has an impact on the financial value of works.

(36) Being sole author is attractive. Contributions by others are often not acknowledged. Creative artists find it hard to collaborate.

(37) Consumers experience aura, singularity and exclusivity. Artists, experts and art-companies make the experience more intense. This can be profitable.


(38) Gradually informalization replaces formalization. This partly explains the success of popular art and the decline of the serious arts.

(39) Little choice and paternalism do not befit an informal society. The dichotomy of artist and spectator continues to be important. artists must be in charge. Active audience participation is not appreciated.

(40) In the second half of the twentieth century, people appear to be able to find their “selves” and express it. A personal choice of art and popular art helps the development and confirmation of an own identity. In popular music, performers show their personality.

(41) Artists’ incomes are low. After 1960 they become lower while the relative number of artists increases. Economists argue that there is excess-supply of art.

(42) Artists are able to give proof of their ability to express themselves and be authentic. In the second half of the twentieth century, becoming an artist is very attractive and relatively easy. This contributes to low incomes.

(43) Over the last decades: The relative monopoly of artists on self-expression and self-realization becomes less strong. Artists now compete with other creatives.

(44) Excurse. Low incomes, little “voice” and little recognition cause distress. the notion that artists are “compensated” by an unusual high job satisfaction is often not valid.

(45) Over the last decades: Precarity among artists increases. The attraction of being an artist leads to increasing exploitation of serious artists by non-profits and exploitation of popular artists by for-profits.


Art Not for Everybody and Not by Everybody

(46) During the period of serious art: The family-of-art is predominantly well-to-do, well-educated and white. this applies to consumers as well as producers. among producers women are also underrepresented. the difference with popular art is considerable.

(47) During the period of serious art: Art-lovers feel superior. They detest the popular/inferior art of common people. It is bad art and it is also bad for common people.

(48) Intermezzo: Deep-pocket markets, medium-pocket markets, low-budget markets, niche markets and mass markets. Purchasing power of groups. Symbolic meanings of prices.

(49) During the period of serious art: Over time art events with tickets replace art events only for invitees. Prices plus additional cost exclude low income groups.

(50) During the period of serious art and after: Exclusion is often informal. In art-buildings, “others” miss social and cultural competences and are informally excluded.

(51) During the period of serious art and after: In the established arts a monoculture exists. The unwillingness to offer serious art in different settings with different atmospheres contributes to the exclusion of others.

(52) during the period of serious art: boundaries between serious

and popular art are occasionally redrawn. this way they

continue to be in line with class boundaries.

(53) During the period of serious art: The discouragement of the production and purchase of less expensive poster reproductions contribute to exclusion. Reproductions on the walls of museums are taboo. The authenticity demand serves as justification.

(54) In the arts an unwillingness to lower cost exists. This adds to the exclusion of others. up to circa 1980, by generous subsidization, governments have enhanced exclusion. The cost of high-end performances rises most. “for artistic quality no cost is too high”. This leads to inner-art-world exclusion.

(55) The seriousness of art brings along intellectualization, artistic distancing and scientification. This causes inner-art-world exclusion.

(56) Most talented prospective artists with a lower-middle and lower-class background have a hard time becoming recognized. They are, de facto, excluded from official art education and most art circles.

Attempts at inclusion

(57) During the period of serious art: Groups of art-lovers want to bring art to the proletariat. They attempt to elevate the workers or pursue economic goals. The attempts are paternalistic and unsuccessful.

A love of art and a love of exclusivity

(58) Through art consumption, persons and social groups distinguish themselves and sometimes dominate others. Art can stand for power. It can also empower.

 (59) Art-lovers are willing to pay for exclusivity. They buy membership in groups. 


Hostile spheres

(60) Introduction: The terms commerce, commercial, commercialism and market are used in more than one sense. Sometimes they are used in a metaphoric sense.

(61) “Art and money do not go together”. In art-worlds the shared ethos is anti-commercial. The culture industry is thought to be harmful.

(62) At first artists appreciate that expanding markets contribute to their income and autonomy. Later artists are blamed for making commercial art, also when the extra income serves the making of relatively autonomous art.

(63) Also during the period of serious art, there is considerable buying and selling and commercialism in the arts. But the ethos is anti-commercial.

(64) Excurse. Some economists argue that markets are good; also good in the arts. Markets are thought to promote consumer sovereignty. Critical theorists do not agree.

Disapproval and covering up of commerce

(65) Art is sometimes thought to be too precious and personal to be sold.

(66) Many artists and art-lovers resent that the selling and buying of artworks makes the works comparable and less unique. They also resent that market success may stand for artistic quality.

(67) Rejection of commerce leads to its concealment. Sponsors who purchase art-related products often pretend this is philanthropy. Sponsors and donors sometimes use art to launder and cover up own blameworthy activities.

(68) In the arts a culture of generosity exists, which masks as well as facilitates commerce. It adds to the exploitation of artists.

Commercialism and dependence of artists and art-companies on demand, sponsorship and support

(69) Introduction: In different degrees, artists and art-companies produce art that is oriented on visitors, buyers, supporters, sponsors and art-worlds. Over the last decades, Art-companies and artists become more other- or user-oriented.

(70) Artists often have no choice but to (also) make relatively market-oriented art and “compromise”. Some do so from conviction. Artists are easily blamed for compromising.

(71) Artists distinguish own work and work for others. Artists negotiate with themselves and others.

(72) Artists use various sources of income to internally subsidize their own art and increase their autonomous space. an important source is income from second jobs. sometimes artists have a work preference.

(73) Often, in little noticed ways, market demand and artworld demand affect the own/autonomous works of artists. Cost developments also have an impact.

(74) The choices of large art-companies are increasingly affected by demands of consumers. They tend to have foremost the demand of elite audiences and donors in mind.

(75) Implicit or explicit demands of sponsors, major donors and governments increasingly affect the overall art product of art-companies. Major donors sometimes “buy” influence.

(76) Since circa 1980, cultural entrepreneurship and instrumental reason become common among art-companies. Since circa 2000, cultural entrepreneurship becomes acceptable among artists. Cultural entrepreneurship always affects artworks and art products.

Enrichment and marketing

(77) Commercial enrichment practices in the arts enhance a winner-take-all mechanism. Over the last decades, Prices, returns and incomes in the top of art markets have increased much, leading to (even more) inequality.

(78) In most artforms, enrichment practices now lead to extreme winners among twentieth- and twenty-first-century artists and ensembles. experts and art-producers often work together. The enrichment harms less successful artists and consumers. For artists the aestheticization of society comes with benefits as well as cost.

(79) Artists and art-companies participate in an aesthetic economy. This has advantages and disadvantage for artists.

(80) During the period of serious art: Marketing by art-companies and artists is taboo. This also applies to (self) branding. After circa 1980, marketing by art-companies becomes acceptable. Marketing always affects the overall art product.

(81) Critics blame a commercial culture industry for a lack of diversity and triviality in the popular arts. They think that along with commercialization this could also be the future of a more commercial world of serious art.


Increased sharing

(82) After circa 1960: The participation in live popular art events increases much. Participation in live serious art events goes down to recover a little in the twentieth century.

(83) During the period of serious art and up to the present day: Outside art-buildings, lower-class and higher-class people are exposed to popular as well as serious art. They also intentionally consume each other’s art. They are omnivorous.

(84) “Learning art” is foremost a social affair. Embodied learning, enthusiastic others and lively art scenes facilitate the understanding of art.

(85) Social groups understand the same art differently. Groups have own art, which they are proud of. Art sometimes “travels” from one group to another.

(86) Higher-educated people have become more omnivorous. They increasingly consume both serious art and popular art.

(87) The media increasingly combine serious and popular art. Also the number of live events with combinations increases.

Less exclusive

(88) In larger networks, interdependences increase. Art-worlds weaken.

(89) In the established arts, next to a small studious domain, a large user-oriented domain develops. Some art institutions become oriented on rich visitors, others on middle-class visitors. The net effect is less exclusivity.

(90) Over the last decades: In the user-oriented domain, underprivileged groups remain much underrepresented in consumption and production of serious art. The attention for their underrepresentation in both serious and popular art events increases.

(91) Excurse. Subsidies have been motivated and used to lower prices in order to enable less-well-to-do groups to participate in serious art events. Existing visitors profit most. Alternative more effective subsidized pricing systems exist, are sometimes applied and could be applied more. Far more art could be free.

(92) New, alternative, varied and parallel career paths and channels of scouting and gatekeeping develop.


(93) On the own art of social groups. Much popular and serious art is shared. But not all….

(94) On markets in the arts. Markets do well, but not always….

(95) On government forces and interventions in the arts. Often, they contribute to the arts remaining exclusive. In this respect governments can “do better”….

(96) On free and cheap art. There could be far more free and cheap art. Far more live art can be provided for free, or offered for low prices…

(97) Finally. The established arts become less exclusive—be it not as much as some would like.