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How to Feed a Starving Artist

Post #790 • May 17, 2006, 8:40 AM • 10 Comments

A small-l libertarian talks about big-A Art and posits an assertion you don't hear at all, really, in the art world: that the American system of arts subsidies is better than the one in Europe.

That being said, the American government does, indirectly encourage our arts by giving tax breaks for donations to non-profits. I think the American system tends to be better because it involves more competition, more commercialism and there's greater room for innovation. Governments are notorious for being quite conservative. And Western Europe now is in a position where its governments face fiscal crisis because of aging populations, and European Union regulations. And they're having to cut arts funding. But Europeans are finding it harder to get private sector support because they're not used to the idea.

An interesting analysis of the arts in a free-market economy. Tyler Cowen teaches economics at George Mason University and recently published Good and Plenty: The Creative Successes of American Arts Funding.



Marc Country

May 17, 2006, 1:22 PM

"Income earned by artists, writers, composers and sculptors from the sale of their works is exempt from tax in Ireland in certain circumstances.

Section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 allows the Revenue Commissioners to make a determination that certain artistic works are original and creative works generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit. Accordingly, earnings derived from these works are exempt from income tax from the year in which the claim is made.

Guidelines have been drawn up by for determining whether a work is an "original and creative" work and whether it has or is generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit*. The Revenue Commissioners may, having regard to the Guidelines, consult with a person or group of people who may help them in reaching decisions in relation to Artists Exemption.

The Revenue Commissioners can make determinations in respect of artistic works in the following categories:
Books or other forms of writing
Musical compositions
Paintings or other similar pictures
Payments to artists that are exempt from tax

The following payments are exempt from tax from when they are made to an artist whose has received an Artists Exemption:
Arts Council bursaries
Cnuas payments made under the Aosdana Scheme
Payments from the sale of works that are considered eligible under the Artists Exemption scheme

*A work has cultural merit if:
Its contemplation enhances the quality of individual or social life as a result of its intellectual, spiritual or aesthetic form and content.

A work has artistic merit when:
Its combined form and content enhances or intensifies the aesthetic apprehension of those who experience or contemplate it."




May 17, 2006, 5:01 PM

This is interesting, Marc. An official definition of art, no less.



May 17, 2006, 7:09 PM

Just saw this new Richard Serra piece by accident at the site.

Go here:

I don't know what he intended, nor does it much matter, but it strikes me as a way to reduce people to cattle, making their way or being herded through rusty chutes. While it may prove, uh, meaningful to some, I think I'll pass. But Gagosian is showing it, so of course it must be important. You know, like those dreadful Hirst paintings (well, nominally by Hirst) that Gagosian showed not long ago. I mean, a brand name is a brand name, after all.


Marc Country

May 17, 2006, 9:23 PM

... and not a half-bad definition at that, actually... I'll take the irish model over that crazy libertarian number anyday.

I don't know about cattle Jack (and me from Alberta!), but those Serra's (again, nominally) sure look tempting to shove over.


Marc Country

May 17, 2006, 9:24 PM

That's small 'i' irish, of course...



May 17, 2006, 10:40 PM

The crazy libertarian number doesn't even make the attempt, which is more accurate, in a way. Still, that's a damn good attempt up there, especially for government people.


Marc Country

May 18, 2006, 10:41 AM

The crazy libertarian number doesn't even make the attempt...

No it doesn't... in fact, Cowan says "The neat thing about the American system, with its emphasis on indirect subsidies, is that the government doesn't really have to decide what is art or what is good art. Our government does have to decide what is a non-profit institution."

Then, it seems, the idea is to lump arts organizations in with the rest of the churches and charities, have them get their share of pennies outta the pot, an then wait for the free market to take care of the rest. Well, if that's the model I was subject to, I can tell you my art career would probably already be over.

That's actually what I mean about prefering the Irish over Cowan's beloved libertarian model. (I suppose the Irish model is libertarian itself, actually, as a tax exemption to keep the artist's money in his own pocket).



May 18, 2006, 9:22 PM

The Irish model has been generous in its practical application, which is why the Spice Girls took up residence in their day. Still, the intended impact of fostering creative artists working in Ireland in a practical and meaningful way, has been successful.

The legislation first introduced in 1969 was an interestingly enlightened piece for a politician who was to 'progress' to head the government before being found out as largely corrupt.



May 18, 2006, 11:57 PM

re #4,

The smallest plate in that Serra weighs about 26,000 pounds and is slightly curved, good luck trying to push it over.



May 19, 2006, 10:53 AM

Thanks for the data, George. Unfortunately, it makes no difference at all.



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