Artistic and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

23 May 2015 at 2:02 pm 9 comments

| Peter Klein |

We’ve featured several posts on the relationship between artistic and entrepreneurial creativity, arguing that great art, like great entrepreneurship, is rarely the product of isolated individuals, toiling away privately and swimming against the tide, misunderstood or ignored by the establishment. Rather, both art and entrepreneurship are usually highly social and commercial activities, with subtle and nuanced relationships among creators, patrons, rivals, and customers.

orange-and-yellowI’ve been reading two interesting books on modern art that emphasize the idea of an artistic “ecosystem,” a complex set of interactions among artists, curators, critics, buyers, and others with commercial interests, Daniel Seidell’s Who’s Afraid of Modern Art and Sarah Thornton’s Seven Days in the Art World. I see many parallels with the contemporary entrepreneurship literature and its focus on ecosystems of entrepreneurs, funders, suppliers, customers, makers of complementary products, regulators, and so on. Phone and tablet makers depend on app programmers and vice versa; engineers need venture capitalists and vice versa; founders and funders are embedded within clubs, networks, and associations; etc. As Seidell notes:

Serious art in the Western tradition — that is, art that is not content to “imagine” what we think we already know about the world of appearances and experiences, but probes more deeply into the nature of such reality through aesthetic form — has always been inextricably bound up with business. It is inseparable from patrons and collectors, with markets and dealers, with personalities and egos. . . .

Great art emerges out of the warp and woof — some would say the muck and mire — of commerce, of production and distribution that is at the very heart of [the art world].

Seidell is trying to help us understand the modern and contemporary art that frustrates and confuses most of us — abstract expressionism, pop art, Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde shark — by explaining that the value of these works comes not solely from the work itself, or even from the relationship between the work and the viewer, but from the way the work is perceived by critics, curators, collectors, and other artists. Much “high art” is actually produced for them, not for us. Of course, with entrepreneurship, the commercial value of any venture is ultimately determined by us, the consumers who willingly part with our hard-earned money for the services of the company or product. But, like art, entrepreneurship is a social activity, and great entrepreneurs know how to situate themselves within, or create from scratch, the ecosystem that makes their work great.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Entrepreneurship, Institutions.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Howard Aldrich  |  23 May 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Pierre-Michele Menger’s book, The Economics of Creativity: Arts and Achievement under Uncertainty, would be a great book to add to your list, Peter.He offers a complementary view of the agents, institutions, and organizations involved in constructing the value of “art” works.

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  23 May 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks Howard! I’ve also heard Don Thompson’s Curious Economics of Contemporary Art is worth reading.

  • 3. Howard Aldrich  |  23 May 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Don’t know that book.

  • 4. Rafe Champion  |  24 May 2015 at 5:38 am

    One of the issues of artistic production is the role of public funding. Tyler Cowen wrote a marvellous book about the funding of art and culture n the US (overwhelmingly private). Great research and a fascinating argument.

  • 5. Shawn Ritenour  |  27 May 2015 at 8:22 am

    The value of work by Damien Hirst and his ilk comes *entirely* from a-critical critics and publicists. One problem that most books like this demonstrate, is an assumption that whatever is called “high art” by a contemporary critic must be worthy of the moniker and, therefore, must be a positive aesthetic contribution. In fact, much of contemporary art is rubbish, which is *not* the same thing as being hard to understand. Thomas Craven, in his book *Modern Art* explains how a aesthetic tradition becomes corrupted when the artists begin to create mainly for each other.

  • 6. Peter Klein  |  27 May 2015 at 8:31 am

    Of course, for a biting, and hilarious, skewering of modern art and modern art criticism, it’s hard to beat Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word.

  • 7. Shawn Ritenour  |  27 May 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Right, Ho!

  • 8. Roei Davidson  |  31 December 2015 at 12:53 am

    Thanks for the post. On the organizational structure of art, I’d warmly recommend Olav Velthuis’ book, “Talking Prices”. Explains how the relationship between artists, dealers and others shapes art prices.

  • 9. Peter Klein  |  31 December 2015 at 1:14 am

    Thanks for the tip!

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