Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Tension Between Art and Commerce

A topic that's fascinated me for a long time...

Check out this very interesting working paper via Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge by Robert D. Austin and Lee Devin:

It Is Okay for Artists to Make Money…No, Really, It's Okay
June 3, 2009 | Link

"In this paper, we examine the apparent conflict between artistic and commercial objectives within creative companies..."

In this paper, the authors discuss the notion of design and aesthetics providing unique value to customers (a key differentiator, for example, of Target in the retail wars against Walmart).

The killer quote from this paper comes from designer Karim Rashid about the inclusion of Vipp products (think $200 toilet brushes) in fine art venues:

"Certain forms, lines, colours, textures, functions, all touch and communicate to our senses and our daily experiences. I believe that objects and spaces need to touch our sensual side, touch our emotions, they need to elevate a certain experience, and they need to be human. Love and desire are part of my interests in 'sensualizing' our physical material world."

The paper continues with an engrossing philosophical discussion on the merits of great design -- its benefit to society, its costs and trade-offs, and, as the authors argue, its fallacies:

Fallacy #1: Art is a luxury, an indulgence
Fallacy #2: Yeah, but that’s not art; it’s not any good
Fallacy #3: Commerce Dominates and Corrupts Art, and Subverts its Purpose

Well worth the read.

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