For many, art and finance intersect at the edges; finance associates with art as a tool for signaling status or providing legitimization, while art relies on finance for funding or as an opposition against which art can define itself. By asking whether there is more to the connection between art and finance than a symbiotic relationship, my project investigates whether the properties of contemporary art, and the choices of those involved, mirror those of finance on a more profound level, and vice versa. Recognizing limitations of analyzing value from either an economic or cultural framework, art and finance are analyzed using an interdisciplinary approach with attention to the context of exchange. In doing so, I draw on methodologies of economic sociologists such as Viviana Zelizer, and on the value-based approach in cultural economics. In answering the second part of the question, I investigate the reasoning-logic behind choices in art and finance.
I argue that the evolution of art and finance towards greater abstraction, and finance’s increasing potential to detach from the ‘real economy’, is causing both fields to be increasingly valued for their speculative function. Commerce’s embrace of aesthetics since the 1970s is commonly understood in instrumental terms: aesthetics generates money. However, there are numerous ways that contemporary finance fulfils a non-instrumental aesthetic function, and in doing so shares many characteristics commonly associated with art. When we examine choice, both fields can be delineated by norms governing how valuation ‘should’ occur; money is the norm of financial exchange, while limiting money’s role is a common norm in art. Understanding that the reasoning behind these norms needn’t reduce to a consequential logic, the different norms of valuation can indicate fundamental differences between both fields. Finally, choice in both fields can be compared by examining the different spheres of valuation that artist and banker alike must navigate. Using Arjo Klamer’s five spheres of valuation, we conclude that artist’s and banker’s choices inevitably collide, and so it isn’t surprising that artists borrow from finance strategies, tools and language. Collectively, the research argues that art and finance remain distinct social fields, but that they have much more in common than is typically recognized.

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A. Klamer (Arjo) , E. Dekker (Erwin)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Creative Industries
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Booth, P. (2017, November 24). Art and Finance: Morals, Pictures, Money, and Something More. Creative Industries. Retrieved from