Why Are Artists Poor? The Exceptional Economy of the Arts

By Hans Abbing | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
Conclusion: a Cruel Economy Why Is the Exceptional Economy of the Arts so Persistent?

Apologizing for not Going into the Arts

Alex meets Marco at a classical music concert. When Alex tells Marco he's
a visual artist, Marco confides in Alex that a few years earlier he had con
templated about going to a music conservatory to study composition. He
explains that he is a good pianist and that he has won some prizes at con
courses for young people. During their conversation, he reveals his regrets
about going into information technology instead. But his regrets appear to
be of the romantic kind; the sort of regrets people can indulge in. Alex is
more struck by the fact that Marco is apologetic about his choice not to go
into the arts, as if he has done something wrong and now must apologize.
Maybe he feels the need to apologize because Alex did manage to go into
the arts. In Marco's opinion, Alex has done the right thing.

This has happened to Alex before: people being apologetic for not choos
ing the arts. Marco is, however, the first who explains why he is apologetic.
He notes that by letting the arts go, he feels that he missed out on some
thing special. By not becoming an artist, he has harmed himself, like he has
mutilated himself. He could have put himself, his personality, into his com
positions, which would have allowed his personality to grow. He would
have become a more complete human being. Moreover, he would have
belonged, belonged to the world of art. But it's not just he who has lost out
— Alex mustn't think him arrogant — but society also lost out because of this
regrettable decision. If he had become the composer he wanted to be, he
is sure he could have offered something significant to society. He would
have joined the group of artists who help shape the history of art, of civiliza
tion itself. Yes, he is ashamed of his choice and deep down he feels guilty.
Alex tells him that despite his talents, his chances of actually making it as a
professional composer would have been extremely slim. Marco says that
this just makes things worse. It demonstrates that he is a coward, some
body who wants to play it safe.

Alex has to admit that Marco doesn't appear to be a very adventurous
person. Moreover, Alex notices that he thinks Marco is `bourgeois', even
though Alex knows he should be congratulating Marco in his decision to
choose a lucrative career.

-280-

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