Dias Europeos de las Ciencias 2009: La Economía del Arte y la cultura

The Economics of Art and Culture
European Science Days 2009

Cultural Economics is a field located at the crossroads of several disciplines: art history, art philosophy, sociology, psychology, law, management, and economics and tries (or should try) to tackle questions such as how culture affects the preferences of consumers, and if so, whether it is “addictive” which would imply more education and less subsidization; why Van Gogh's paintings are expensive, and why copies of his works are cheap, and why Van Gogh is more expensive that Titian; why Pre-Raphaelite painters came back in the 1960s, after having been completely forgotten during almost a century (with an obvious effect on their prices); whether there is need for cultural diversity; why European public or national museums are not allowed to sell parts of their collections; which (and given the budget constraint, how many) buildings should be saved from demolition, and kept for future generations; why there are superstars who make so much money; who are the agents endowed with the power to discriminate between good and bad art and what is the expertise of those who grant prizes and awards (who would today award the 1959 Oscar for best movie to Ben Hur and forget about Some Like it Hot produced during the same year?); and whether works that have been sold should nevertheless be subject to copyright laws. From this enumeration, it should appear that all the fields are interacting, but that this does not often make an art historian understand mathematical economics, nor an economist show interest in artists from the Italian Renaissance.

The list also raises the issue of whether economists interested in cultural economics should simply apply their usual tools to questions related to and data coming from the arts, or whether they should take culture as an opportunity to add new issues to the existing economic literature and rely on what is studied in the neighboring fields listed above.

The European Science Days program aims therefore, at bringing together faculty from several areas (economics, philosophy, psychology, and law) so that students (and teachers) can benefit from what I think is the way to tackle the field of cultural economics and the economics of the arts.

Victor Ginsburgh

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