Why Are Artists Poor?

The Exceptional Economy of the Arts

Hans Abbing

Hans Abbing

Distributed for Amsterdam University Press

367 pages | 7 x 9-1/2 | © 2002
Paper $41.95 ISBN: 9789053565650 Published March 2004 For sale only in the United States, its dependencies, the Philippines, and Canada
Most artists earn very little. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of aspiring young artists. Do they give to the arts willingly or unknowingly? Governments and other institutions also give to the arts, to raise the low incomes. But their support is ineffective: subsidies only increase the artists' poverty.

The economy of the arts is exceptional. Although the arts operate successfully in the marketplace, their natural affinity is with gift-giving, rather than with commercial exchange. People believe that artists are selflessly dedicated to art, that price does not reflect quality, and that the arts are free. But is it true?

This unconventional multidisciplinary analysis explains the exceptional economy of the arts. Insightful illustrations from the practice of a visual artist support the analysis.
1. Sacred Art
2. The Denial of the Economy
3. Economic Value Versus Aesthetic Value
4. The Selflessly Devoted Artist
5. Money for the Artist
6. Structural Poverty
7. The Cost Disease
8. The Power and the Duty to Give
9. The Government Serves Art
10. Art Serves the Government
11. Informal Barriers Structure the Arts
12. Conclusion: a Cruel Economy
Epilogue: the Future Economy of the Arts
Index of Names
Index of Subjects
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