Supply Side Economics

Andy Warhol DOLLAR SIGN 9 286 1982

While not all entrepreneurs are artists, all artists are entrepreneurs. Artists, like entrepreneurs, have a product or idea to sell, and they need to get out into the marketplace. In order to do this, artists need (at the very least) basic business skills and a willingness to approach selling art as any entrepreneur would. If you’re serious about building a sustainable art career, there are definitive steps you need to take to build and maintain your business:
Understand basic marketing and sales practices. Every entrepreneur knows the key to getting their idea or product to market is through marketing and sales. You must employ marketing strategies to do that. That means you need a website that reflects your signature style, which includes high-resolution pictures and descriptions of your work, as well as a means to buy the work directly from the site (or has links to contact information or the galleries that represent you). It should also include an artist statement and a section with a regularly updated blog or newsletter. Keeping in touch with and building an audience is key to selling your work. With social media tools like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and search engine tools like Google and Pinterest, there are no more ways than ever to reach audiences. [Art Design Consultants on Artists are Entrepreneurs]

… in the mid 1960s when… it was pretty well established that we had a going thing in the [American] art world… and about 6000 people had created some of the best art in the 20th century. [So] when they couldn’t kill us they decided to claim us – you understand? “Those are our artists! Every one of them. They’re all Americans, good Americans! We can put their paintings together and send them all over the world. So that’s American. That’s Jackson Pollock [and] that’s called all over painting. That’s American [because] we’re all over fucking everything!” And so all of a sudden America embraces the arts, and well, if we’re gonna embrace the Arts we have to support the arts, you know what I mean?
And the best way to support the Arts – since we’re all businessmen – we know that supply-side economics is what works. And the way you run supply side Economics is you encourage the sources of art. The more sources of art there are the better odds that there will be good art out there. So all of a sudden we start encouraging artists, you know, hand over fist! We [now] have art graduate schools – thousands upon thousands of them. We have art students – hundreds of thousands of them. And this [supply-side economics] didn’t work any better than anything else ever did… we’ve never given any thought to the fact that supply-side economics is a murderous and ruthless concept. What it means [is that] we get a million people [trying to be an artist] and 900,000 of them go broke. That’s supply side economics…. we got what we got [which was] an idea of all of this support for the Arts. [Support] because America’s Number One in the Arts and we want America to stay at Number One in Art, do you know what I mean?… I can remember [a time] when people referred to an “American Art World” and there may [very well] be one, but [you would] probably [have to look for it] in Brussels… (my apologies for my interpretation of the transcript – reading and conversation are two very different things) [Dave Hickey The God Ennui Talk at the SVA]

Installation view of Lisson Gallery’s booth at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2016

We admire entrepreneurs greatly in America. There’s a reason that every business school now has a fully developed entrepreneurship track, if not an entire program dedicated to it. And clearly, our understanding of what entrepreneurs do is similar to our understanding of what artists do. Artists are risk-takers. Artists change or transmute values. Artists dream about changing the world.
And so many people think that artists are entrepreneurs. Indeed, a whole cottage industry of rather silly career training for artists has arisen based on this notion (“Learn How to Break Into the Art Market in One Day!”). It’s true that artists must be resourceful, and that it’s helpful for them to be good at business, and that they start things from scratch. But artists having to find a way to survive while they make their art is not the same as entrepreneurship. And artists who enter into so-called art with the idea that they are starting a business — a transaction of something for money — are almost never making art. They are making something else, usually decoration. It’s a gamble, sure, but it’s certainly not a new idea, either as business or as art. [Rainey Knudson on Art is Not Entrepreneurship]


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