Reflecting on the Connection Between Art and Economics

Li Blog

Pursuing a double major in Art History and Economics, I am often asked why I am interested in such two different areas. The intuitive answer is “Because I love both of them.” However, I began to wonder, is there a connection between art and economics?

Art often seems abstruse, vague, and intangible — it is a form of creativity, a value of beauty, a consummation of dreams. In contrast, economics appears pragmatic, based on monetary values, as well as calculation and allocation between limited resources and unlimited desire. Although interacting with art might be a highly personal experience, artworks themselves cannot exist outside economics. For the past twenty-five years, several economists have investigated which artworks are good financial investments, by looking at the market of art auctions. Art institutions, such as our AD&A Museum, also have to make financial decisions involving artists, galleries, experts, and donors. It is beneficial to examine some of the problems that art markets pose from economic analysis.

Architecture is particularly relevant to economics of art. Everything in architecture is a trade-off. The term trade-off in economics is often expressed as the most preferred possible alternative. It involves a sacrifice that must be made to get a certain product or experience. Take our AD&A Museum as an example­­; outwardly, it has no windows, which make the inside invisible. As a result, not everyone passing by this building will realize that it is a museum. In fact, in order to protect artworks from dust and sunlight, the museum has to be enclosed. Trade-off is involved here, as a balancing of factors, when all of which are not attainable at the same time. Behind each decision in one architecture, lays the most basic principle of economics. As an intern here, I will continue devoting myself to find and break the architectural constraints to welcome more visitors here at the heart of UCSB campus.

-Amy Li, Education Outreach Program Intern

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