PRICING THE PRICELESS: Art, Artists, and Economics by William D. Grampp

PRICING THE PRICELESS: Art, Artists, and Economics

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A neoclassical economist takes a controversial look at the world of art, analyzing such matters as its investment potential, the sales methods of dealers and auction houses, and the advisability of government support for the arts. Likely to offend traditionalists who see the arts as somehow outside the standard parameters of economics, Grampp (Social Sciences/Univ. of Chicago) treats art as a commodity, subject to the same rules that apply to other consumer goods. Grampp is consistent in his views, although occasionally simplistic--e.g., ""Pictures are a part of the furnishings of the house, and thought is given to how they will harmonize with other things in it."" He also stands on shaky ground when he asserts that the main reason that many museum-goers attend art exhibitions is to increase their earning potential as teachers and other purveyors of culture. Throughout, Grampp implies that financial acquisitiveness is the prime human motivation, a premise that may be contested by many. He goes on to point out many of the inconsistencies that plague governmental efforts to promote the arts--arguing, for example, that since only 38% of Americans polled were in favor of governmental subsidies for the arts, there is an inequity in the allocation of tax dollars for such purposes. To those who reject this argument, he states, "". . .you must believe there is nothing amiss about taxing people to pay for what most of them do not want."" A provocative--some would say philistine--addition to the art shelves.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1989
Publisher: Basic Books