Distrust of Commerce and Commercialism

  • Hans Abbing


During the period of serious art (circa 1880–1980), art and money represent hostile spheres. The art ethos is a-commercial. This was not the case in earlier centuries. In this period artists and art-companies attach much value to autonomy and the making of “own work”. They are easily accused of compromising and being commercial. They anyway are inclined to internally subsidize their autonomous work, often by means of second jobs. Also marketing, cultural entrepreneurship and branding are taboo. I, however, demonstrate that also in this period artist and art-companies are influenced by consumer demand in their artistic choices. After circa 1980, there is a process of recommercialization. Now the demands of not only consumers and governments but also of major donors and sponsors affect art production.

Without admitting this in the twenty-first century, art-companies, and in a lesser degree artists, care less about autonomy and autonomous work, while marketing, cultural entrepreneurship and branding have become acceptable. In this context, I pay attention to the enrichment of artworks through different “wrapping” and marketing. This contributes to a strong winner-take-all mechanism in the arts. Prices of some visual artworks are now very high, while some art-lovers pay high prices to participate in “excellent” performances.

One wonders if these developments lead to less diversity, standardization and trivialization in the serious arts as are thought to exist in commercial popular music ever since the 1960s. The latter is anyway not true.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Abbing
    • 1
  1. 1.AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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