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An Economic Theory of Avant-Garde and Popular Art, or High and Low Culture

Tyler Cowen and Alexander Tabarrok
Southern Economic Journal
Vol. 67, No. 2 (Oct., 2000), pp. 232-253
DOI: 10.2307/1061469
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1061469
Page Count: 22
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An Economic Theory of Avant-Garde and Popular Art, or High and Low Culture
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Abstract

Artists face choices between the pecuniary benefits of selling to the market and the nonpecuniary benefits of creating to please their own tastes. We examine how changes in wages, lumpsum income, and capital-labor ratios affect the artist's pursuit of self-satisfaction versus market sales. Using our model of labor supply, we consider the economic forces behind the high/low culture split, why some artistic media offer greater scope for the avant-garde than others, why so many artists dislike the market, and how economic growth and taxation affect the quantity and form of different kinds of art.

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