Friday, October 24, 2008

How should we sponsor art?

How do artists make a living at something that is, in a strictly economic sense, useless and unprofitable?

Most importantly for my purposes today, where should they get their money from?

I just read an article claiming that in America about 90% of art is sponsored by private means, and 10% of the money comes from government subsidies. In certain European countries, on the other hand, the numbers are the other way around; governments there subsidize 90% of art, while private donations make up the other 10%.

The author of the article also implied that it is rather crass for private corporations to sponsor so much art, as if the millionaires were saying, “Art is a luxury, not a necessity. And you owe this luxury to Mr. Moneybags.” The author of the article obviously held just the opposite, that art is a necessity that should be provided for by the state.

As we all can recognize, however, private corporations aren’t the only organizations with ulterior motives for supporting certain artists over others. How many state subsidies for art go to completely unworthy artists because they are friends of a politician or because they support a certain political agenda? Neither government nor private enterprise is safe from trying to use art for its own purposes.

At the same time, however, it is obvious that many great works of art are due to the patronage of government (e.g. court painters) or business (e.g. Charles Dickens writing for profitable magazines).

Where, then, should the money come from? Should it come from the government, from private corporations, or from somewhere else? Is there a best solution?
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