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It’s not about bringing the arts and business together; Erik Wikberg at the Stockholm School of Economics says they come from the same place

2 min read

Some view the arts as the last true bastion against callous and ruthless capitalism. They argue that commercialisation corrupts artistic creativity and would rather keep the two well apart. Others, however, insist the gulf between the arts and commerce is self-imposed and detrimental to both arts and business.

Swedish arts and business schools have recently begun to reach out to each other in an attempt to close the gap. Art schools have begun to offer courses in entrepreneurship designed to train students in the ins and outs of the art market, while business students at the Stockholm School of Economics are being exposed to contemporary video art in the main foyer. While some dismiss these innovations as shallow and pointless, I embrace them as a new way of thinking about the relationship between the arts and commerce.

Earlier pioneers, such as my colleague Emma Stenström, paved the way for this increased collaboration. There is now an entire team of researchers here devoted to the study of the arts, business and culture.

Times have never been better to study the business of the arts. Today stories about the arts world are increasingly told with numbers instead of words. The news covers tickets sales, price records, art price indices, rankings, and all sorts of other quantification and commensuration. The business of business is business, and the business of the arts is too.

Art schools have begun to offer courses in entrepreneurship

Yet, it must be pointed out that all the great scholars of the arts – Arthur Danto, Howard S. Becker, Pierre Bourdieu, Niklas Luhmann, Paul DiMaggio and others – would agree that the arts, first and foremost, belong to a more sociological concept. The really interesting stories are about the social behaviour behind them.

We live in a society that is growing ever-more complex. Artists and business leaders need to understand the way in which marketplaces, practices, and prices are infused with cultural and social values, derived from both cultural and commercial circulation. The artistic and the commercial worlds are so intimately connected that neither of them can be studied in isolation.

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