28 October 2004

The Patronage Game

An article in today's Guardian unwittingly demonstrates the bankruptcy of purely economic copyright mechanisms (and justifications). According to ArtReview, of the 100 most powerful people in art (not the arts, just the "visual arts" excluding film), only 21 are artists (well, I suppose you could add in the six architects if you're picky… except that one of them is there specifically for work on an art museum…); on the other hand, there were 26 dealers and "gallerists," 30 curators and museum folk, 16 collectors… and one "patron." Then there's the guy at #16 on the list: Steve Wynn, better known for his casinos than anything else.

If copyright is supposed to "encourage the progress of the arts"—and even though the survey was published in a British journal, it covers the world; last time I checked, the Bush administration and isolationists had not quite succeeded in removing the US from the rest of the world—it's only 21% effective. At least on this measure. That this "measure" is remarkably consistent with surveys of "powerful people" in music, in film, and in publishing—all of which put actual creators at around 1/5 of the total—indicates a market failure.