Autonomy in Art: Market Influences

Liene Bosquê

Is making a living from creative work incompatible with creating great art?

Should artists allow considerations of the art market to influence creative decision-making?

Artists have always wrestled with this. To live outside of the mainstream, and reject the pressures and influences of popular taste is to live in isolation from art markets. Great art can be produced from this type of isolation, but having autonomy and isolation from market forces does not mean your art will be great, or that you can live happily, cut off from the world.

Artists have the right to have a happy life. Suffering is not obligatory; for many, this means selling their art for a living wage. It also means allowing some autonomy to slip through your fingers. When you acknowledge the influence of market forces, you can then choose how much to allow your art to be impacted.

What are we asking of our art? Do we want it to change lives and change the world? Provide us with a decent living? Allow us to work in a creative field? Shine a spotlight on our genius for the world to see?

No judgments here; this is between you and your art. What are you asking it to do for you? If you can be honest with yourself, and think clearly about how much selling art in the marketplace is going to validate your feelings about yourself as an artist, and support a creative life, you can find a path between autonomy from the forces of commerce and the life of a starving artist.

If we choose art as an avocation, then the source of our support is going to influence our autonomy, and our art. No matter if our support is a trust fund, a rich spouse, a job, or selling art in the market, we will have to give some influence to those supports.

If you find another way to earn a living, and keep your art out of the marketplace, let it exist for the joy of creating, you will create entirely autonomous art — but the likelihood is that its joy will not be shared with the world.

The downside of sharing work in the art market is the loss of autonomy from market pressures. The upside is that your work is out in the world, speaking in tongues and working magic.

The art funnel goes like this: 1000 people see your art. 100 people like the art. 10 people get in contact with you for more info. 1 person buys. The estimate that a thousand people usually need to see your work to produce one sale means sharing art through the market needs to be a large part of your plan to let your art change the world.

Selling your art isn’t just about money. It is also about sharing your art with the world. But it’s your world, and you get to choose how much to share and how much to keep close to the vest. Critical honesty about what you want and expect your art to do for you can give a clear path forward.