Creativity + Industry

The reads and lecture this week covered the topic of ‘Creativity + Industry,’ these texts discussed the importance of collective management of creatives within the industry, in order to produce a cultural text. To nurture (read manage) creativity within an industry, there needs to be an environment of open communication, judge free spaces, freedom to display individuality and communal spaces for sharing ideas (Catmull, 2008). The way I see ‘Creativity + Industry’ is the way in which creativity can be affected by money.

I come from a visual arts background; ‘Industry’ in my field refers to patrons, philanthropist, commissions, sponsors, grants and residencies. Art and patronage have had a long-lived history, it was most prominent in the Renaissance, where the Artists’ patrons were mainly the Church and Aristocracy. Art was a source of prestige, wealth and power; the Church used art to lure people back into Faith after the Age of Enlightenment, whereas the Aristocracy wanted to display their wealth and to look like gods. However most of these artists were ‘catering’ for their patrons, selling their artistic integrity and freedom. Everything was discussed between artist and patron, down to how much blue would be used in a painting, as at the time the blue pigment Lapis Lazuli was the most rare and expensive.

Artist without patrons did not have to sacrifice their creative integrity. However they lived their life in poverty, and the value of their work was established only after their death. In his lifetime Vincent van Gogh sold very few works, 5 months before his death he sold his first painting for an amount that would equate to about $78 today; today his estate is worth over 670 million dollars and he has become a household name, his work has had a far-reaching influence on 20th century artist, and is still relevant today, he is one of painting’s most significant fathers. But for Van Gogh, the artist, not only did he not get the money his work produced, but in his lifetime he never received the approval of his peers or seen the impact of his work (Mcnee, 2013).

Today’s model of ‘Creativity + Industry,’ allows the artist to make money now as opposed to after they are dead, which is good for the creative but more often than not, it shows in the work as they cater to the audience; their work becomes very ‘POP,’ very commercial and very “sellable.” Damian Hirst is the second richest living artist being valued at 350 million (Huffpost, 2013). Like most ‘successful’ contemporary artists, he is known for works that are provocative, shiny, and larger than life, becoming more of a spectacle than art, but this is what gets people through the doors of galleries and makes money. For me I can’t help but find this type of work anything more than titillating buzzwords and ‘isms’ being hyped into existence.

According to Bourdieu there are two models for approaching ‘Creativity + Industry.’ The first is the Autonomous Model, consisting of self-governed artist like Van Gogh. These artists act independently and in accordance to their own ethical code, this is often referred to as ‘art for arts sake.’ The second model is that of the Heteronomous, where artist like Hirst work for money, and so their work is held under constraints of forces external to them (Fensham, 2002), this model has been criticized for ‘selling out.’ But there is a third position, where the artists has the freedom and ethical code of the Autonomous model, but they can make money while they are still alive, this is a model of ‘ Ethical Reflexivity’

Ethical reflexivity is being aware of the relationship between cause and effect, and navigating your own practice in a way that accurately reflects your values and beliefs. It’s true that art remains a source of prestige for its patrons, however the new patrons are transnational corporations, with their own agendas of making money (Madra, 2006). When merging creativity with the industry, the individual creative needs to think carefully and ask themselves questions for example: how do they benefit from the positive light of philanthropy? What is the creative work endorsing? Because it is now branded by their company (often by copyright laws and ownership laws (you represent them and vise versa)) what does their company stand for?

A relevant example of artist demonstrating ethical reflexivity is the current Sydney biennale, funded by (among many sponsors) ‘Transfield,’ a billion dollar Australian corporation, who holds a 2.1 billion contract to operate off-shore detention centers, holding asylum-seekers. 28 of the commissioned artists sent an open letter to the directors of the biennale, threatening to boycott the show, refusing to be a part of a show that supports the no boats policy (Rowley, 2014).

They acknowledge that the arts are reliant on private finance, which can create difficulties, for the directors. But there still needs to be some level of ethical awareness. I believe the actions of these artists will create a ripple effect across the art field, inspiring more artists to navigate their practice in an ethically reflexive way.


Catmull, E. (2008). How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity. Hardvard Buisness Review. Harvard Publishing.

Fensham, R. (2002). Understanding Bourdieu. Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin.

Huffpost. (2013). Top 5 world’s wealthiest artists. Retrieved 2014, from Huffpost arts and culture :

Madra, Y. (2006). From Imperialism to Transnational Capitalism: The Venice Biennale as a ‘Transitional Conjuncture’ (Vol. 18). Routledge.

Mcnee, L. (2013). Artist who died before their art was recognized. Retrieved 2014, from Fine Art with Lori Mcnee:

Rowley, J. (2014). Biennale artists dubbed hypocritical as Transfield exits. Retrieved 2014, from Hijacked:


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