The Artist as Entrepreneur

In the Review of Austrian Economics, my graduate student, Rania Al-Bawwab, and I develop a theory of Renaissance art market organization.

Here’s the abstract:

We develop a theory of the supply side of art markets building on Kirzner’s understanding of entrepreneurship as alertness to profit opportunities. Whereas Kirzner’s entrepreneur is alert to the existence of resource misallocation, the artistic genius is alert to the opportunity of producing aesthetic value out of mundane objects and resources with no such value of their own. Our theory produces an important empirical implication: when market conditions are such that most art is “high art,” the artist will perform both functions, alertness to artistic value and alertness to profit opportunities. Instead, when most art is “low art,” the two functions will belong to distinct individuals. To substantiate our theoretical arguments, we discuss their relevance to the markets for paintings in Renaissance Italy and contemporary visual art.

More on the paper here.

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