Living from our art
September 30, 2011
this is the 5th post based on Lewis Hyde’s book, ‘The Gift’
Hyde cites 3 ways modern artists have resolved the problems of livelihood:
1 Getting a second job. In this situation, artists become their own patrons by using the income from the job to support their less remunerative work. Hyde calls this having ‘one foot in the gift economy, one in the market economy’.
2 Patrons. In this case, it is the patron who participates in the market economy to support the artist working with his gift.
3 The artist becomes an entrepreneur, living from the income generated by his artwork.
In this third case, Hyde says the boundary between gift and market economy blurs. The artist must, on one hand, be able to disengage from the work and think of it as a commodity. He must be able to reckon its value in terms of current trends, know what the market will bear, demand fair value, and promote the work. ‘And he must, on the other hand, be able to forget all that and turn to serve his gifts on their own terms. If he cannot do the former, he won’t sell his art, and if he can’t do the latter, he may have no art to sell or only commercial art, work that has been created in response to the demands of the market not in response to the demands of the gift’.
In other words, if you are going to sell your work and preserve the gift element, you need to make your work in that protected gift sphere without any thought of market at all. And only when you are satisfied that you ‘know the work to be the faithful realization of your gift’ should you turn to see if it has currency in that other economy. Sometimes is does, sometimes is does not’.