Artists, Capitalists, and the Fate of Art under Capitalism

My current book project is The Fate of Art under Capitalism. The research is done and I’m over halfway done with the writing. I love art, art and intellectually history, and political economy—and this book project lets me integrate them all.

One of the questions I take up is based on three observations:

1. Artists have never had it so good as over the last century—the number of practicing artists has skyrocketed, as has the amount of money we spend on art, as has the number of media and genres, as has the quantity and quality of artistic raw materials, and so on.

2. The last century has been relatively capitalism-and-business friendly. (I know what you’re thinking, free market friends of mine.)

3. Most artists, especially those in the artistic establishment, are anti-capitalist and anti-business. (Picasso is representative, in word if not always in deed, here in 1918 speaking of his dealer Léonce Rosenberg: “Le marchand—voilà l’enemmi” [“The dealer—there’s the enemy”].)

So my question is: Why the dynamic of the cartoons below?
















(Kudos to Chris Vaughan for drawing the cartoons for me.)

18 thoughts on “Artists, Capitalists, and the Fate of Art under Capitalism

  • March 30, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    So I guess, the point of my last post was: there’s something peculiar about the culture since the industrial revolution that pits art against business…could it be philosophy?

  • March 30, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    As far as Hollywood is concerned, by all accounts, there have always been numerous, extremely crass businessmen involved in that industry. Leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth about business and capitalism, which helps to support all the leftie ideas in Hollywood.

  • April 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    “I’m a commercial person. I’ve got a lot of mouths to feed. Gotta bring home the bacon.”

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  • May 30, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I think that you are missing the main point most artists give on this matter. The problem has been one of that ; those who have the most money retain the most money by means of controlling the distribution , influencing the tastes of the consumer through advertising and exclusion and finally controlling the content and standards of creation. The more static and dependable all three of these elements are the better for the media monopoly. It’s less work\risk and the same reliable profits. Art however needs change and innovation and requires risk (let alone arts ability to challenge the popular social thinking of the time) What goes with the flow is popular and profitable in mass. This means it is no longer the most valuable art that is successful but that which is mass producible product of the large distributor that is successful. Rather than selling his art the artist is now in a position of being an employee of a media company and will be doled out his salary as long as he follows his employers guidelines in his creations and niche art is right out as consumers are overloaded with main stream manufactured artistic product determined to milk their interest for all it’s worth until it’s so run into the ground no one can stand it anymore then it’s off to find something new to co-opt, sanitize and mass produce. This is good in that the artist dose not assume risk of profitability, but bad in that he no longer has creative license to challenge existing trends and tastes. Also once an idea is bought that intellectual property is owned to the extent that even satire let alone a derivative work of any artist sometimes even by it’s original creator is out of the question (at lest in US court )unless you have lot money for lawyers. Sony America has buried people in repeated lawsuits Sony could never have and did non win this way by simply making it to expensive for an artist, who being one person also can’t spend their life in court every other week. IBM has trade marked a certain shade of the color blue and even common language is owned by companies who sue for you for treading on their IP often for little more than censorship of an individual who poses no real commercial threat.

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