SUMMARY of theses (10.000 words)

The Changing Social Economy of Art, Are the Arts becoming Less Exclusive?

Hans Abbing, 2019​​ 






This is a “kind of” summary​​ foremost​​ 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.


As a webpage on the website which accompanies the book, it​​ can be downloaded by printing it to PDF (Ctrl p) and​​ next, if one wishes,​​ it can​​ be printed for real.




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Cover Text


Is art for everybody? Why do art lovers attach so much value to authenticity, autonomy and authorship? Why did the arts become so serious in the first place? Why do many artists reject commerce and cultural entrepreneurship? Crucially, are any of the answers to these questions currently changing? Hans Abbing is uniquely placed to answer such questions, and, drawing on his experiences as an economist and sociologist as well as a professional artist, in this volume he addresses them head on.


In order to investigate changes in the social economy of the arts, Abbing compares developments in the established arts with those in the popular arts and proceeds to outline key ways that the former can learn from the latter; by lowering the cost of production, fostering innovation, and becoming less exclusive. These assertions are contextualized with analysis of the separation between serious art and entertainment in the nineteenth century, lending credence to the idea that government-supported art worlds have promoted the exclusion of various social groups. Abbing outlines how this is presently changing and why, while the established arts have become less exclusive, they are not yet for everybody.


Some preliminary remarks

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​​ (Australia and Canada), especially​​ to​​ Europe 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.​​ 







In the course of the nineteenth century art becomes serious; art is no entertainment. A period of serious art commences. In this period art is triumphant, and popular art is no art. Non-profits are established and “commerce” or “being commercial” is rejected. Major art-buildings are erected. People who do not consume serious art respect and look up to it. In the last decades of the twentieth century overall respect for serious art gradually goes down. Popular art becomes more important. There is a re-commercialization in the arts and at least part of serious art is allowed to be​​ 

entertaining. The period of serious art gradually comes to an end.

In the nineteenth century art-worlds become established which, with financial and moral support of governments and donors, govern the production and distribution of serious art. They do so without a need of state enforcement, as was common in earlier centuries. Art-world establishments guard artistic progress. They create an art heritage and classic artists and artworks. They also put demands on serious artists, demands which over time are becoming more constraining.

Both in the arts and in popular art, avant-garde groups exist. The first resist the existing art favored by the art-world; the last the mainstream art promoted by the industry. In the serious arts, this leads to conflicts and occasional artistic and social revolutions. The diffusion of new genres is​​ at first​​ slow and limited. In the popular arts, many parallel avant-garde scenes exist. They do not last as long as in the arts. When successful they expand, the new (sub)genres are relatively quickly diffused, while influencing mainstream popular art. In the arts, mainstream art is taboo.

The different trajectories partly follow from a different orientation of artists. For income and reputation, avant-garde artists in the serious arts are foremost oriented on donors and governments, and those in the popular arts on markets.


A High Respect for Art


(Section​​ 4)​​ OVER TIME THE ARTS START TO STAND OUT. IN THE 19TH​​ CENTURY A PERIOD OF SERIOUS ART COMMENCES.​​ Art, as we understand the term, did not always exist. What the term art refers to, changes over time. In this section I briefly examine changes in the use of the term art and I explain related concepts.


(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.​​ Before the period of serious art respect for art and artists was not particularly high. For a long time paying respect to art or the arts was not even an option because, as mentioned, the term art as a collective noun denoting all the later “fine arts” did not exist. But along with the unification of the fine arts the social status of each of the art forms increases.


(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.​​ In the course of the period of serious art the general associations with art and the stereotypical beliefs about art become widely shared. They also become part of the imagery of not-art loving bourgeois and of lower-class people.​​ 


Separation of art and entertainment




(9)​​ BEFORE THE PERIOD OF SERIOUS ART, ART WAS ENTERTAINING, CONTEMPORARY AND FASHIONABLE.​​ BEHAVIOR IN HALLS AND THEATERS WAS DISORDERLY.​​ As we shall see, during the period of serious art in both the US and Europe a clear symbolic and social boundary between art and not-really-art, i.e. popular/inferior and applied-art exists. Art is serious. It is no entertainment. Before this period this is not the case.


(10)​​ During the period of serious art: ART AND ENTERTAINMENT ARE SEPARATED. ART CONSUMPTION IS INSULATED. A PROPER CLASSIFICATION, ETIQUETTE AND SETTING ARE ESTABLISHED. NONPROFITS ENABLE THE SEPARATION OF ART AND ENTERTAINMENT. In the late 19th​​ century a very clear symbolic boundary and in a lesser degree also a social boundary between on the one hand serious art and on the other popular/inferior and applied art, or in other words between art and entertainment, has been established. It is widely advertised by art-worlds.​​ 


(11)​​ During the period of serious art: ART CONTINUES TO BE USED FOR “DECORATION”, DISTINCTION AND THE REALIZATION OF POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC GOALS.​​ In spite of a separation of art and popular art and an increasingly serious art-setting, art remains useful. Art is useful for private consumers, companies and sponsors, and it is directly or indirectly useful for donors and governments. Art (or fine art) is useful because it also serves non-artistic goals. It is useful without being applied art, that is, utilitarian objects in everyday use to which artistic design has been applied.​​ 


(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. As noted, without being applied art, art can be useful because it also serves non-artistic goals. Having looked at the many, instrumental uses of art which are not “for the sake of art”, the question arises if art is always useful. To answer this question, by way of excurse, in this section, I discuss the notion of artistic value and the belief that art has universal value. Next, I discuss interpretations of the notions of “art for art’s sake” and art being “purposeful purposeless”. I also discuss the notion of art, artists and art organizations being relatively artistically autonomous. (In this web-note, I first present a brief discussion of different interpretations of the term value and the (im)possibility to measure them./28)​​ 


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. Before the​​ period of serious art, various institutions with authority—guilds, bishops, sovereigns, town councils and so forth—governed art production and distribution by regulating art education and art markets. A market economy existed, but without much freedom. Next, markets became freer and there is considerable commercialism. In the nineteenth century, art-worlds start to restore some of the governance of the earlier art institutions. But control is indirect and does not cover all professional artists. (In this web-note, I explain forms of “governance” that existed in the centuries up to circa 1900 in more detail than in the following text./31)


(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 ARTISTS IS IMPORTANT FOR ARTISTS.​​ Before the period of serious art, control of numbers of artists is formal. During the period of serious art and after, the new art-worlds recognize artists and so indirectly control the number of recognized artists. They do so in a variety of ways of which official schooling is only one.​​ But many artists without “official” schooling also become recognized within art-worlds.​​ 


(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. Several factors influence the strength and flexibility of art-worlds and their development over time. In the performing arts the nature and history of the art-buildings are particularly important. Their main​​ art​​ products require different buildings. Next the buildings, in different degrees, limit the development of new​​ art​​ products.


(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.​​ Before the period of​​ serious art, there was no strong sense of progress in the arts, but in the period of serious art, the notion of progress and continuity in art is important. An art heritage is constructed and maintained.


(17)​​ During the period of serious art: WITHIN ART-WORLDS A QUALITY HIERARCHY OF ARTWORKS, GENRES AND ARTISTS EXIST. TOP WORKS AND ARTIST OF OLD BECOME CLASSICS. QUALITY JUDGMENTS, NEVERTHELESS, CHANGE WITH TIME. BUT ART-WORLD UNITY MUST BE MAINTAINED. Quality judgments in art are subjective. They depend on the ways people understand art. Lower- and higher-class people may well “understand” a Vivaldi piece in a different way and judge its quality to be higher or lower. And both “understand” and appreciate Vivaldi’s music differently when compared with a seventeenth century listener.


(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.  In the previous sections we have already seen that for various reasons art-worlds much depend on support of donors and direct and indirect support of governments.


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. To govern production and to guard progress, art-worlds put demands on art-world-recognized artists. The demands limit their negative freedom and autonomous space. For the artists who agree with the demands this is no problem, but others feel restrained or go their own way, that is, a way that deviates from the one promoted by the art-world.​​ 


(21)​​ During the period of serious art: AFTER THE DEVELOPMENT OF A SUCCESSION OF NEW GENRES, MAJOR CONFLICTS ARISE, BUT UNITY IS RESTORED. In spite of the mentioned attunement, sometimes fundamentally different opinions exist in an art-world on the right course. In a first major social revolution art became serious. Next in intermediate periods minor conflicts connected with the introduction of new (sub)genres (or styles) add up and lead to three other artistic as well as social revolutions. In each of the three cases “progressives” win and take over the establishment and the governance of the art-world. However, usually a majority of art-lovers is conservative and only follows much later. (Along with the successive revolutions different and more constraining demands start to be made on artists as mentioned in the previous section.)


(22)​​ EXCURSE. THERE IS MUCH ARTISTIC INNOVATION IN POPULAR MUSIC.  APPLICATION OF COST-SAVING TECHNIQUES PROMOTES INNOVATION. This section is as web-text wt-22 available on the website. It may interest all readers. In it, I discuss technological, social and artistic innovations in the popular arts.


(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. For a proper understanding of the social economy of art, a further comparison of art and popular art is useful. In the arts as well as in popular art avant-garde circles of artists exist which develop new (sub) genres. But the process of the diffusion of their innovations follows different trajectories.




In various ways, an expectation and demand of authenticity in the arts affects the social economy of art. Two related forms of authenticity can be distinguished: expressive authenticity and nominal authenticity. First, artists are expected to be authentic in expressing themselves and be true to themselves. Ordinary bourgeois are not in a position to do so. They envy artists and put art and artists on a pedestal. This partly explains the almost religious ambience and atmosphere in art-buildings. But along with informalization, for many people the atmosphere has become unattractive.

Moreover, already for some time people believe that they as well can and must be authentic. This often does not work out. This is one reason why the art’s profession remains​​ very attractive, with as a consequence precarity among artists.

Second, nominal authenticity is demanded. Artworks must be genuine. And performances must conform to the artist’s instructions or intentions, or they must conform to the dominant artistic tradition. The latter demands have major consequences for the art’s economy. It prevents the application of cost-saving techniques. Instead costs rise much faster than elsewhere in the economy. Ever-more subsidies and donations are required, while, more recently, ticket prices have been raised much. These demands make the arts more exclusive.


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. In the previous chapter I emphasized the importance of art-buildings and art-spaces. In such buildings a specific art-setting exists. It is a setting that makes art serious, or, in other words, it turns art into serious art. In combination with its setting, art is meaningful. Meanings for an individual depend on the context, on personal histories and on the social group he belongs to.


(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.​​ In the period of serious art, art has several inter-dependent new functions, which much contribute to the triumph of art: imagination, enchantment, compensation, escape and assistance in a search for an “authentic self”. Earlier religion offered similar possibilities, but it brought people to a shared God and not to an individual self.


(26) Intermezzo. FREEDOM, AUTONOMY AND AUTONOMOUS SPACE. In preparation of later sections and chapters in this short section I say more about these concepts.


(27) ARTWORKS ARE EXPRESSIVE AND PERSONAL. THE ARTIST IS “IN THE WORK”. Ultimately all artworks are expressive and expressively authentic. All art, one way or another, tells about the person who has created the work. When this is well noticeable, it allows the viewer, listener and reader to relate to him as a person and to project own personal feelings on him and his work when creating his self-constructed artwork. Before the period of serious art, self-expression in art is less important for artists and consumers. And in the aftermath, it is also less important for many artists. But for most consumers the possible self-expression of dead and living artists remains important.


(28) During the period of serious art: ART SERVES INTROSPECTION. PEOPLE SEARCH FOR AN “AUTHENTIC SELF”. As said, given social economic constraints and related conventions of proper behavior, in the main period of serious art, living authentic lives is no option for ordinary art-lovers. But being in contact with one’s self is not impossible and artworks can facilitate this. Finding the artist’s true expression of his self in an artwork and thus finding the artist-in-the-work can bring along intense art experiences and help the development of own very personal art-works. This way the art-lover can explore an own inner-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. As noted [9], before the period of serious art behavior was not very respectful in the venues in which art was offered. But in this period behavior is respectful, and the overall art-setting in the art-buildings expresses the importance and the seriousness of the artworks that are present or performed.


(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. During the period of serious art, for people to have a deep art experience, an art-setting is required which is not distracting.


 ​​ ​​ ​​​​ An obsession with authenticity, authorship and aura


(31) First introduction. EXPRESSIVE AUTHENTICITY, NOMINAL AUTHENTICITY, AUTHENTIC WORK AND GENUINE WORK. As said, the term authenticity is used in several different senses.21 Authenticity is judged to be important in the arts (as well as in the popular arts), but it is often not clear what kind of authenticity people have in mind. Is it the expressive authenticity that has been dis-cussed in section 25? Or is it the authenticity of a​​ so-called authentic performance? Or something in between? To prevent confusion some precision is called for. The notion of the authentic performance also matters because in the serious music art-world much value is attached to it which, as we shall see below, causes rapidly rising cost.​​ 


(32) Second introduction. ORIGINAL, MULTIPLE, RE-COMPOSITION, ART-IN-THE-STYLE-OF, REPLICA, REPRODUCTION, PRODUCTION AND RELATED TERMS. Correspondences and differences between these concepts matter for a study of the social economy of art in this and the following chapters. I define and explain them in web-text wt-32. Students are advised to read this section. Others may scan or skip the web-text and, if necessary, return to it.


(33) PERFORMANCES MUST BE AUTHENTIC. “During the period of serious art, people increasingly care about the nominal authenticity of performances. This applies strongest to classical/serious music including the music in ballet and opera. Most lovers of serious music still care much about authenticity. Saying that an obsession with authenticity exists is no exaggeration. Consequences for the social economy of serious music are profound. It leads, among others, to ever higher cost, and therefore to more exclusion of people with little money. This is the topic of the section 54.​​ 


(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. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, the cost of live performances of existing works (per visitor-hour) increases disproportionally. The increase is particularly large in the course of the twentieth century. Also cost of newly composed and performed work is usually high. There is an aversion of the application of new production techniques. This hinders innovation. The phenomenon of rising cost becomes life-threatening for the heritage 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. So far, I discussed the obsession with the form of nominal authenticity that implies a “conforming to the authors instructions and intention” and/or a “conforming to an artistic tradition”. In this section I treat the demand that artworks must be nominal authentic in the sense of “being correctly attributed” or “genuine”: the work’s origin, authorship and/or provenance must have been correctly identified. In the period of serious art and up to the present day, art-lovers and the buyers and sellers of artworks want to know that a certain well-recognized artist has created a work and not somebody else. Authorship is very important.


(36) BEING SOLE AUTHOR IS ATTRACTIVE.  CONTRIBUTIONS BY OTHERS ARE OFTEN NOT ACKNOWLEDGED. CREATIVE ARTISTS FIND IT HARD TO COLLABORATE. For most creative artists it is unattractive to create artworks in teams, that is, in teams that as team take responsibility for the final art-work. They much prefer to be the​​ sole author of a work, an author who is responsible for the artwork and takes responsibility for it.


(37) CONSUMERS EXPERIENCE AURA, SINGULARITY AND EXCLUSIVITY. ARTISTS, EXPERTS AND ART-COMPANIES MAKE THE EXPERIENCE MORE INTENSE. THIS CAN BE PROFITABLE. That artworks have unique properties is much appreciated by consumers. It explains an obsession with singularity. Aura and singularity are related. Knowledge about the history of works increases the experience of aura and makes them appear more singular. Experts and both for- and non-profit art-companies, like museums, halls, dealers, impresarios and large ensembles, can enrich works and increase the experience of aura and singularity, and so increase their reputation and/or profit. I start by explaining the concepts singularity and aura—concepts I use all through the book.





(38) GRADUALLY INFORMALIZATION REPLACES FORMALIZATION. THIS PARTLY EXPLAINS THE SUCCESS OF POPULAR ART AND THE DECLINE OF THE SERIOUS ARTS.  The phenomena so far discussed in this chapter, and in particular the subdued, civilized and formal behavior, do not only exist in art-buildings. In less extreme fashion, they are typical for all behavior of bourgeois, for instance, at work, and even at home. Everywhere behavior is far more controlled and formal than it is today. However, since around 1960, society becomes more informal. This has important consequences for the social economy of the 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.  In the informal society, along with increasing prosperity, a very diverse supply of products has developed. There is much choice. There is also more freedom of choice. Fewer institutions, like earlier the church and governments, tell people what they must choose and what they must not choose. Much paternalism does not befit the informal society. But, at least until recently, a limited choice and paternalism are typical for the serious arts.


(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. Thanks to controlled-decontrolling, expressing one’s self and showing an own identity has become easier. Along with informalization people cannot only​​ search for​​ a self; they increasingly believe that they can​​ find​​ their selves.


(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. In preparation of the next section and later chapters, in this section I look at developments in the income and number of artists. In the next section I​​ explain why after 1960 the arts profession is still very attractive even though artists’ incomes become ever lower. This is not what one would expect.


(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.  As noted, in spite of low incomes and no growth in consumer demand for established art, the number of artists has increased much since 1960; far more than in the decades before. It has grown very much in the popular arts, and much in the established arts; and anyway, more than corresponds with the growth in demand. This explains incomes that have become (even) lower. At first sight, this is not what one may have expected.​​ 


(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. In the second half of the twentieth century, artists still hold a relative monopoly of self- expression and self-realization in their professional activities. They have more expressive autonomous space than other professionals including the many new creatives, but the difference becomes smaller.


(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. That the arts are extraordinary attractive implies that expectations are high and not necessarily that the benefits of being artist are high and come up to expectations. For some it does, for others it does not. It does not for most of the many artists who after having become artists are and remain poor.


(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. Further commercialization, in the arts as well as popular art, probably has added to exploitation. Now groups of “entrepreneurial” artists protest against inner-art-world exploitation. And increasingly with success.





During the period of serious art, several social groups are excluded from art consumption and production. There are attempts by groups of art-lovers aimed at the inclusion of low-class consumers—rather than producers—but they are unsuccessful.

Exclusivity is a condition for art being serious and prestigious. Well-to-do art-lovers pay for exclusivity. This explains the high prices of some visual artworks and certain performances. A love of exclusivity is an important motor behind exclusion. Not all art-lovers have access to all serious art. In the course of the twentieth century, the intellectualization of the art discourse as well has led to inner-art-world exclusion.


Art Not for Everybody and Not by Everybody




(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 BAD FOR PEOPLE. In the serious art period feelings of superiority as well as a general dislike of lower-class people and their art are intense among art-lovers. At the same time common people look up to people visiting theaters and concert halls and their art. Evidently two strong symbolic boundaries exist.

Mechanisms of Exclusion


(48) INTERMEZZO: DEEP-POCKET MARKETS, MEDIUM-POCKET MARKETS, LOW-BUDGET MARKETS, NICHE MARKETS AND MASS MARKETS. PURCHASING POWER OF GROUPS.  SYMBOLIC MEANINGS OF PRICES. In this section I explain concepts related to prices and markets that are important for understanding the text in this and the next part of the book. I advise all readers to, at least, scan the text. Prices matter for access to art. They also have meanings. For instance, for a group for whom prices are low, a low price may stand for low quality of art, while for a group for whom prices are high, it may well tell “art is not for us”.


(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. Before the serious art period, to participate in art events people seldom had to pay, but during this period and after, having to buy tickets is most common. Nowadays, most often one also has to pay for museums. This is not to say that earlier all events were free or that artists did not earn money.


(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. In the serious art period next to formal exclusion there is informal exclusion. Most of the time the exclusion is not deliberate. Common is that an art-setting or art environment has been created that is unattractive for outsiders who otherwise​​ may​​ have wanted to participate. An important part of a prohibitive art-setting is the audience itself and its behavior.


(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. In this section I tell last section’s story again, but from a different perspective: that of majorities and their culture(s). I compare those in the live serious arts with those in the live popular arts. In the popular arts there is far more variety in atmospheres.


(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. When popular art genres or subgenres become meaningful, attractive and popular among art-lovers, art-worlds sometimes “intervene” by redrawing boundaries. The art is upgraded, civilized and appropriated, making it more exclusive.


(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. As noted, high prices lead to exclusion. Visual art prices are very high. But during the period of serious art the prices of reproductions are affordable. In the twentieth century, their production and sale is, nevertheless, discouraged. This contributes to exclusion.


(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. In section 34 we have seen that the cost of the production of art performances rises faster than the cost of production in other sectors. If authenticity would not be such a great good, and if obvious cost-saving techniques—as can be found in the popular arts—would not be rejected, high-quality, lower-cost performances could have been developed. Instead, art-companies demand ever more support and receive more support, be it that in Europe, in most countries governments stopped increasing subsidies after circa 1980.


(55) THE SERIOUSNESS OF ART BRINGS ALONG INTELLECTUALIZATION, ARTISTIC DISTANCING AND SCIENTIFICATION. THIS CAUSES INNER-ART-WORLD EXCLUSION.  In the serious art period, there is a gradual process of intellectualization in the arts. The “proper” understanding of serious art not only requires social competences but also ever higher cognitive competences. In the times of contemporary-art, this not only leads to exclusion of little educated people but increasingly also of art-lovers.


(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.  A so-called class ceiling exists in the arts, even though exceptions suggest the opposite.—The exceptions are much emphasized in art circles [46].—A privileged background enables prospective artists to profit from the cultural and social capital they earlier obtained. It follows that wrongly resourced social groups are not only excluded from consumption of serious art​​ but also from its production. In practice, without government support their means to develop, produce and distribute own art are also limited.


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. So far, I discussed mechanisms of exclusion, which make participation in live events in art-buildings and visits to museums unattractive for lower-class people. This is not the whole story. All through the serious art period, there are art-lovers who want to bring serious art to them. Till the present day—be it less outspoken—a belief that it is important to let “others” get acquainted with serious art, remains important among art-lovers. Governments often agree. Earlier the term “dissemination” is used; art must be disseminated. Attempts were little successful. Now the use of the term “participation” is common; others must also participate.


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. Art bringing distinction implies that others look up to the distinguished person or group. This way art contributes to the authority and power of a person who owns art or visits art events, or to a group who symbolically owns art. The association of serious art with an expression of power and the domination of others is painful for art-lovers. They want to believe that art has goodness and this does not rhyme with a strife for distinction, power and domination. (The latter three are emphasized by Bourdieu in his book Distinction.30 It is no accident that after its publication in 1979, many informed art-lovers are shocked and that they are happy when in the 2000s some social scientists start to criticize Bourdieu’s work.)


(59) ART-LOVERS ARE WILLING TO PAY FOR EXCLUSIVITY.  THEY BUY MEMBERSHIP IN GROUPS. Last section’s story can also be told in more economic terms. There is supply and demand of​​ membership and​​ distinction; buyers of art buy (also) distinction. The attraction of exclusivity can explain all sorts of behavior, which otherwise are hard to explain. For a proper understanding of the social economy of art, an understanding of exclusivity in the arts is important. Exclusivity is a corner-stone of art-worlds. The belief in the goodness of an “art for the sake of art only” and therefore implicitly in the badness of “art for the sake of exclusivity and distinction” led in the time of Bourdieu to denial, but presently, given ever higher prices, art-lovers and artists start to notice that, at least in the top of art markets, exclusivity is very important for buyers. This causes anger.






Before the period of serious art, artists were well aware that market income could increase their freedom and they had no problem with commerce, commercialism, self-branding and the enrichment of their work, to make it more attractive. As we would say now: they were willing to compromise. But during this period such activities are taboo, and artists who compromise are blamed. Artists must be as autonomous as possible.

Around 1980, along with developments in capitalism, attitudes and practices change again. First, marketing and next cultural entrepreneurship by art-companies become common. Not much later many artists follow. Often without being aware of this, artworks and the art products of art-companies also change in content, with higher sales as the outcome. Moreover, some artists start to worry less about artistic autonomy and develop hybrid art practices.

Not all art-lovers agree. They resist that art-companies and artists​​ are becoming cultural entrepreneurs. And leftist critics warn against a commercialism in the arts that is becoming as common and intense as in the commercial popular arts. Also an orientation on sponsors and donors is thought to lead to a loss of autonomy and compromise.​​ 

Over the last decades, artworks and art products are increasingly enriched; their “wrapping” looks more attractive. This contributes to another phenomenon. Along with commercialization and other developments in society, a winner-take-all mechanism has become more important in the arts. This leads to extremely high incomes among a small group of artists and to a small number of very successful ensembles and venues.



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. In this part of the book I discuss various convictions and opinions in the arts that are related to “commerce”, commercialism, and “the market” or “markets”. To be able to do so, in this introduction​​ I explain these and related concepts. They are sometimes used in confusing ways. General readers—but not students—can scan or skip the section, and, if necessary, later have a better look at some paragraphs.


(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.  Artists, art-lovers and art theorists—especially those on the left side of the political spectrum—are inclined to blame everything or much that is wrong in the arts on “commerce”, “the market”, neo-liberalism and capitalism. Not all art-lovers and art theorists agree with such convictions, but the notion that the world of art and the world of “commerce” are hostile spheres is widely shared. Each using different terms, famous scholars agree, like Georg Simmel, Max Weber, Arnold Hauser, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Luc Boltanski and Eve Chapello.3 Famous critics like Peter Bürger and Robert Hughes also agree.4 Some economists as well, like Arjo Klamer, adhere to the notion of hostile spheres.5


(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. Before the period of serious art, artists and art-companies did not reject commerce and commercialism. Especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there was an orientation on emerging markets and a, sometimes intense, pursuit of income/profit. Market income increased the overall autonomous space of artists. Many artists openly embraced commerce and commercialism. This changes during the period of serious 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. Art objects and tickets are sold and bought. Some artists resent this [65], but most do not. More artists have a problem, not with commerce in an economic sense, but with consumers and their insufficient demand for good serious art, and with, more or less, commercial art-companies which force or persuade them to make commercial choices. For most artists, for most expert/critics and for many art-lovers, commercialism and a fanatic pursuit of profit which go at the cost of artistic autonomy are taboo.


(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. Many economists depart from the notion that markets are in principle good, but also acknowledge that they can “fail”. The notion of market failure stems from welfare economics, a well-known branch in economics, which I briefly explain in web-text 19. Because some art policy makers still refer and base recommendations on welfare economic findings, students in cultural economics are advised to read the web-text.


Disapproval and covering up of commerce


(65) ART IS SOMETIMES THOUGHT TO BE TOO PRECIOUS AND PERSONAL TO BE SOLD. In practice art is always alienable, but for many artists it should not be. And if it is sold and bought, works must be unique and not substitutable, while prices must certainly not stand for quality. In practice, in spite of much goodness, art is not treated like certain other precious goods, like children (or women), whose buying and selling in most countries is taboo and even forbidden by law.20 For artists their art may be very precious, its buying and selling is not taboo. Nevertheless, artists sometimes resent having to sell their work. They rather keep it or give it away, instead of exchanging it for money.


(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. Most art is not given but sold and bought (or commissioned). It is exchanged for money and it has a price. Visual artworks can have lower or higher prices. Prices of other art, like records or books, do not differ that much, but being priced more or less can be sold. In either case market success can 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. Commerce in the arts is supposed to be a necessary evil. It does not befit the sacredness of art. Therefore, using various means, market participants try to conceal and cover up commerce; or they pretend that what is commerce is gift-giving and not really commerce. The goodness of art calls forward such behavior. Art is for art’s sake and not for the sake of money. Personal interests are disavowed. But in practice, techniques for covering up interests often serve commerce.


(68) IN THE ARTS A CULTURE OF GENEROSITY EXISTS, WHICH MASKS AS WELL AS FACILITATES COMMERCE. IT ADDS TO THE EXPLOITATION OF ARTISTS. In the previous section certain kinds of gifts serve the covering up of commerce. There are many other kinds of gifts. Together they are part of a “culture of generosity”, a culture that is stronger in the arts than in most other sectors of production. This culture covers up commerce, but, just as important: it facilitates and serves commerce. This is not acknowledged. Instead people think that gift-giving and commerce are opposites, opposites that can replace one another. But they are not. Therefore, as said, there undoubtedly is decommercialization in the period of serious art, but, again, less than one may think.


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. In the following sections I present and discuss many situations in which artists and art organizations attempt to make artistically autonomous art or follow an own mission in offering art, while in practice they often create relatively other- or user-oriented art, art that can be called market-, supporter- and art-world-oriented art. During the period of serious art, when artists are thought to do so, and even more when they are thought to deliberately do so, they are blamed for compromising. This still happens, even though over the last decades blaming artists becomes less intense. But as I notice many artists still feel guilty when they do not make “own work” but compromise, I discuss the phenomenon in detail in the following sections. In preparation of these sections, I explain some concepts I use in the following sections. I advise students to read the text. If they wish, general readers can just scan the text.


(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.  Many artists are noticeably other-oriented and after money. Because a majority of creative artists cannot make a living from their art, this is understandable. Most artists have little means and therefore also little artistic autonomous space. They must (also) make relatively other-oriented art, bringing in income to sustain themselves.


(71) ARTISTS DISTINGUISH OWN WORK AND WORK FOR OTHERS. ARTISTS NEGOTIATE WITH THEMSELVES AND OTHERS. Some artists say that in part of their work—but only part—they pursue other than own artistic goals. They make a distinction between own work (or “autonomous work”) and not-own work. Sometimes they are secretive about it. The work for others is often commercial, but not always. It can, for instance also be political work. (Artists not only use the term own work but also “autonomous work”. As said, this work is “relatively autonomous”.)


(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.  The artistic autonomous space of artists is always limited. Poor artists have less autonomous space than not-poor artists. Because in the twentieth century the large majority of creative artists have a hard time making a living from their art, many make also commercial art and/or they use non-art sources of income, foremost that of second jobs, to internally subsidize their true art job. This way they increase their limited artistic autonomous space. (As we shall see further down, art-companies as well are often engaged in commercial art activities in order to internally subsidize their core art activity, their mission.)


(73) OFTEN, IN LITTLE NOTICED WAYS, MARKET DEMAND AND ART-WORLD DEMAND AFFECT THE OWN/AUTONOMOUS WORKS OF ARTISTS. COST DEVELOPMENTS ALSO HAVE AN IMPACT. As noted, in different degrees artists make work that is other oriented, but most of them prefer to believe that their work is altogether artistically autonomous. In this section I present examples of consumer demand and art-world demands as well as cost developments influencing the artistic choices of artists. In as far as artists are little or not aware of it, they cannot be said to compromise, let alone be commercial. But for a proper understanding of the social economy of art, acknowledging the influences is important. It can also be insightful for artists.


(74) THE CHOICES OF LARGE ART-COMPANIES ARE INCREASINGLY AFFECTED BY DEMANDS OF​​ OTHERS.  THEY TEND TO HAVE FOREMOST THE DEMAND OF ELITE AUDIENCES AND DONORS IN MIND.  Art-companies, like museums, halls, theaters and large ensembles are, the same as artists, other-oriented and an influence is almost inevitable. Others are consumers, small donors, sponsors, large donors and governments. Modern cultural entrepreneurship has enhanced the phenomenon that art-companies are oriented on others. Their choice of products not only rests on artistic considerations. As far as consumers and small donors are concerned, they are more oriented on art-lovers and not on lower-middle- and low-class people, and also not on non-white people. This orientation certainly affects their mission​​ and​​ overall art product.


(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. Along with further commercialization in the arts, attempts of art-companies to sell advertisement space to sponsors and to obtain subsidies and donations have become more intense and calculated.​​ It is inevitable that in decisions on the core product, managements, curators, programmers and publishers have sponsors, donors and subsidizing governments in the back of their mind, even though some may hardly be aware of this.


(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. Whereas forms of cultural entrepreneurship have always existed, before the 1980s’ commercial turn, no art-company or artist would be and wanted to be called cultural entrepreneur. Not much later, cultural entrepreneurship becomes acceptable in the case of art-companies. But it is only over the last two decades that this also starts to apply to artists. Up to the present day, there are conservative art-lovers and new (leftist) critics of “commerce” who reject cultural entrepreneurship in the case of artists.



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. So far, I paid most attention to consumer demand and demands of others influencing the art of artists and art-companies. That in the economy at large producers listen to consumers is what economists expect. Producers need to make a profit and have to compete with other producers. They better listen to consumers. However, economists are also aware that supply can and sometimes must influence demand. New innovative products require the development of, at least, a niche market. This also applies to the innovative art of avant-garde circles, in the arts and even more in popular art. But it also applies to small and large art-companies wanting to sustain their business in competition with others, that is, other art-companies or other companies offering products for luxury consumption. Or they want to sell to be able to internally subsidize own activities. For this marketing is an important tool. Sometimes producers can be said to manipulate consumers. (The notion of consumer sovereignty anyway makes little sense [64].)


(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.  During the period of serious art and up to the present day, classic artworks have always been winners. Over the last decades the enrichment of old as well as new works by art producers and experts have become more important and some-times more calculated, contributing much to the winner-take-all mechanism. As far as new artworks are concerned, differences exist between art forms.


(79) ARTISTS AND ART-COMPANIES PARTICIPATE IN AN AESTHETIC ECONOMY.  THIS HAS ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES​​ FOR ARTISTS.  The aestheticization of​​ society, which by now penetrates all areas of consumption in prosperous countries, cannot exist without intense enrichment activities. In the arts they affect the work of artists. So-called aesthetic capitalism brings groups of artists opportunities and benefits, but may well harm the average artist.​​ 


(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.  After the discussion of the important phenomenon of enrichment, I now take a step backward to look at marketing and branding and the changing attitudes in the arts toward them. Marketing and branding inevitably lead to enrichment, but their main goal is promotion and not enrichment. Marketeers in the arts attempt to increase sales and are usually not aware of the fact that they give artworks​​ “extras” that necessarily have an impact on the art experience of consumers.


(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. Enrichment and marketing of serious art by a culture industry certainly affects the choices of consumers. Indirectly it could lead to less diversity and homogenization, but not necessarily. It is significant that already for a long time more diversity exists in the commercial world of popular music than in the less commercial art-world of classical and serious music, an art-world that is supported by governments and donors. But arguing that a culture industry and especially the commercial media manipulate consumers’ tastes is probably correct.




All through the art period outside art-buildings (including art-spaces), much more art, serious art as well as popular/inferior art, is shared by higher and lower social groups than we are inclined to think. This foremost applies to not-live art. Serious live performing art is not accessible for the latter. It follows that people are omnivorous. They “eat” from both racks. The symbolic boundary between serious and popular art is strong, but as far as consumers—rather than artists—are concerned, the social boundary is less strong.

Most shared art is understood differently by different social groups. Some art is not shared. A part is difficult and interesting only for expert-consumers. Another part is “own art”. Social groups have self-developed art that is especially meaningful for them. At least for a while they can keep it for themselves.

Over the last two decades the overlap in the reproduced art social groups consume is becoming larger. A weakening of the symbolic boundary between serious and popular art contributes to this, as do the (commercial) media. Moreover, in a new user-oriented domain in the established arts, there are now many attempts to interest more middle-class people in the art they offer. Sometimes serious and popular art is again offered in the same events.

The attempts of local governments to let more people participate in art events have increased. Important for the sharing of art is the emergence of ever more parallel channels of scouting and gatekeeping. The traditional media and nowadays also the social media​​ contribute to this development. It much increases the chances of all social groups to produce art and have their art noticed.



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.  In web-text wt-82, which accompanies this section,  I present data.1 Here I just mention some general developments.


(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. Art-worlds create, maintain and sometimes adjust the symbolic boundary between art and no-art by deciding that certain art-in-a-broad-sense can or cannot enter art-buildings. Almost everybody is aware of their choice. There is a symbolic boundary. Nevertheless, outside art-buildings in (semi) public space and at home, the social boundary is less strong. Lower-class people deliberately or casually consume serious art and higher-class people popular/inferior art. Part of serious and popular/inferior art is shared. There is a considerable overlap.​​ 

In web-text wt-83, which may interest all readers, I discuss the various ways in which higher social people in the period of serious art come across the art of low- class people and often enjoy the art. I also discuss how low-class people come across serious art in semi-public space, and consume reproductions and recordings at home. There is far more serious art in their homes than people tend to think. I give many examples.


(84) “LEARNING ART” IS FOREMOST A SOCIAL AFFAIR.  EMBODIED LEARNING, ENTHUSIASTIC OTHERS AND LIVELY ART SCENES FACILITATE THE UNDERSTANDING OF ART. In order to better understand the sharing of art, its limitations and the importance of having own art, in web-text wt-84, which may interest all readers, I look at the way many people “learn art”. I also pay attention to worries about art education disappearing from the curricula in primary and secondary schools.


(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. Given different ways of “learning art”, it can be expected that when different social groups share art, they may well understand the same art differently. The art is meaningful but in different ways. Sometimes groups have own art that is not shared. Others think that the art is meaningless for them, or they are deliberately or de facto excluded.


(86) HIGHER-EDUCATED PEOPLE HAVE BECOME MORE OMNIVOROUS. THEY INCREASINGLY CONSUME BOTH SERIOUS ART AND POPULAR ART. Since the 1980s commercial turn and especially over the last two decades, the symbolic boundary between serious art and popular art is indeed becoming less important. The same does not in the​​ same degree apply to the social boundary between serious and popular art. Nevertheless, outside art-buildings, well-educated people consume more popular art. They have become more omnivorous.


(87) THE MEDIA INCREASINGLY COMBINE SERIOUS AND POPULAR ART.  ALSO THE NUMBER OF LIVE EVENTS WITH COMBINATIONS INCREASES.  In movies and television and on social media, that is, in not-live events, the provision of combinations of serious and popular art is not exceptional anymore. All social groups are interested. The media activities much contribute to the weakening of the symbolic and social boundary between established art and popular art. Also, in live events, more often combinations of serious and popular art are offered, sometimes together with other forms of entertainment. The offering of​​ such events was common before the period of serious art. Presently they are still exceptional, but this is bound to change in the 2020s.


Less exclusive


(88) IN LARGER NETWORKS, INTERDEPENDENCES INCREASE.  ART- WORLDS WEAKEN. As mentioned in section [3], in art-worlds, various interrelated groups of participants exist who interact with one another and depend on one another. They are connected in an art-world network with many smaller sub-networks. In that section I distinguish five groups. These are experts/critics, official art education institutions, art-loving consumers, artists, non-profit art-companies and for-profit art-companies. Within the overall art-world network, there is a power balance. It is possible that one or more groups have a larger say than others, and this can change. The overall art-world network has links with outside networks; foremost, networks of governments, donors and sponsors.​​ 


(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. Over the last decades two poles have developed in the established arts. This is, on the one hand, an extreme of serious, studious and supposedly autonomous art, directed at artists and expert-consumers, who discuss art using a specialist’s discourse. On the other there is an extreme of user-oriented and even entertaining art for a large audience. Between the two extremes, two domains exist, with a broad gray zone in between: a small studious domain closer to the studious extreme and an ever-larger user-oriented domain closer to the user-oriented extreme. In the latter two sub- domains exist: a small deep-pocket user-oriented domain and a much larger medium- pocket user-oriented domain. It is the emergence over the last decades and the present extension of the latter domain that makes the established arts less exclusive.


(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. Over the last decades, the underrepresentation of lower-class people and non-whites among art consumers in art-buildings has hardly decreased. They continue to be​​ absent. Actions to increase their presence are very limited. The difference with live popular art remains large. But under-privileged groups are also underrepresented in popular art events and among artists producing popular art—be it in a much lesser degree. Attention for these phenomena among artists as well as among civil servants at local levels who are responsible for art subsidies increases, and sometimes this results in conditions attached to subsidies.


(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. In the second half of the twentieth century, low prices thanks to subsidies—rather than thanks to the lowering of cost—are used to attract “others” with the effect that art in theory could have become less exclusive. Because regular visitors profit most from lower prices, it is sometimes hard to tell what comes first: self-interest or the assumed interests of others. Over time more effective pricing systems start to be used. By now they could be used very effectively.


(92) NEW, ALTERNATIVE, VARIED AND PARALLEL CAREER PATHS AND CHANNELS OF SCOUTING AND GATEKEEPING DEVELOP. New channels and career paths supplement or rather replace the few channels and paths that earlier were monopolized by art-worlds. They exist in the real world, but increasingly also in the virtual world of websites and social media. Writing in the preface that the arts are now in turmoil, one of the main things I had in mind is the emergence of alternative career paths. Now even lower-class people can become well- known and respected artists. Moreover, now turning from an amateur into a successful professional artist can be a matter of years if not months. Education can be altogether self-organized or organized within new channels, which earlier did not exist.




Reading the first sentences of the sections in the book, one obtains a fairly adequate summary of the book’s findings. In several ways the previous chapter is already a conclusion. Therefore, in this chapter I only present a​​ selection​​ of findings in the book, while adding a few. One important red line in the book is related to the presence of commerce in the arts and the interventions by governments. Therefore, most of the findings in this conclusion are related to this. The findings or theses miss nuance. This is partly deliberate and partly due to the wish to publish a moderately sized book. In the previous chapters most are explained in detail.​​ 


(93) ON THE OWN ART OF SOCIAL GROUPS. Much popular and serious art is shared.


(94) ON MARKETS IN THE ARTS. Markets do well, but not always.

In principle, markets are neither good nor bad!​​ 


(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.