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The cost of art

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V-A-L-U-E

noun. 1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
2. principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgements of what is important in life.

A while back I saw three films around the same time which all brought up a similar issue; that of a struggling artist.

Inside Llewyn Davis focuses on the eponymous musician who is constantly striving to create folk music whilst having to sleep on friends’ couches and hitching rides across the country to search for a record deal. He reminded my of a few of my friends who are musicians, who simply need to create music, to play, to write songs, to perform. They are not necessarily doing it to become extremely rich and famous, though an income from their passion would help.

Le Regard de Georges Brassens also centres around a musician, this time a real and very successful one. It is a great documentary about the wonderful French singer, guitarist and poet, Brassens, showing us his youth whilst growing up in Sète and later his life in Paris before becoming famous. Brassens moved to Paris at the age of 22 during the war and managed to find a place to stay with an older couple, Jeanne and Marcel. Jeanne was a collector of all kinds of strays; cats, dogs, musicians. They were a poor family in terms of income, but rich in warmth and generosity and without their support Brassens would not have been able to concentrate solely on his song writing, and wouldn’t have become the star he did.  Brassens dedicated a song to her;

La Jeanne, la Jeanne
Elle est pauvre et sa table est souvent mal servie
Mais le peu qu’on y trouve assouvit pour la vie,
Par la façon qu’elle le donne,
Son pain ressemble á du gâteau
Et son eau a du vin…

“Jeanne, Jeanne
She is poor and her table is often badly laid
But the small amount you find there fills you up for life,
By they way in which she gives it,
Her bread is like cake
And her water is like wine…”

Finally Violette is a film based on the life of the writer Violette Leduc at the start of her career in Paris. She is encouraged to pursue her talents by the acclaimed Simone de Beauvoir and manages to publish her first novel. In order to continue writing, without having to spend her time scraping together the money to survive, de Beauvoir secretly becomes her patron by paying her cheques via their editor.

The lives of all three of these artists are supported, at least initially, by others, so that they can concentrate wholly on their art. They are supported selflessly, without an agenda, without hope that one day the artist will become famous and repay the debts.

It got me thinking about the patronage of the arts, which I believe is vital and must be selfless. It must not be an investment in a future monetary value, but an investment in art for art’s sake. Art does not, or should not, exist to make money, to make the artist famous. It exists because humans have been producing it for millennia, because it is a sign of our intelligence, a symbol of our culture. It is how we make sense of the world and for some, life is unbearable if they are not creating.

Unfortunately our society is obsessed with the economy; money rules all. Therefore something can only be deemed to have a value if someone will pay for it; value and cost are inextricable linked. Within this kind of society I do think people should be paid for the art they produce, just as we as should pay accordingly for the music we want, the films we watch. However I can’t see this cost as its sole value.

The stereotype of a ‘struggling artist’ is not a romantic ideal, it is an inevitable situation in a materialistic, capitalist, money-driven society where instead of creating you are producing, instead of experiencing you are consuming.

One response »

  1. Definitely going to see if I can pick up all three of these movies – they look lovely. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, as well.🙂

    Reply

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