The fundamental core of art as commodity is that its value is in its scarcity and not in its content.
There is a secondary consideration, of making art under capitalism, where artists are motivated to sell art work to pay for food and shelter and the free time to continue making art, and that can't be easily dismissed. Art having a perceived value that justifies paying for it is a problem of this capitalist context. But that should not be conflated with art's value being in its salability.
Photography, mechanical reproduction, and more recently digital art have all interrupted to significant extent the once implicit bond between possession of an original, singular piece of visual art and popular access to that art.
Reproductions allow at least a partial experience, though an in-person experience of a physical painting can be richer because the experience is more total than just surface image.
Digital work can be distributed more completely and far more cheaply.
So what are the motivations to invent scarcity where the nature of a medium allows breaking away from it? They vary, but ultimately they all come down to control as value.
The value in limiting access to a work is that those who can access it gain cachet. They can have what others cannot. There may be interesting artistic reasons for that, even. But if the means by which access is limited are monetary, then art is explicitly pay-for-play and is for the richer and not the poorer.
I cannot cleanly separate any given artists desire to scratch out a living off their art from their desire to use art as a means to acquire wealth; most folks making and selling art will never make enough money to make it an observable distinction.
And we're living under capitalism so the need to get paid is tangled up in *everything* in a way that is hard to judge people individually on outside out outlier, high-income exceptions.
But I think it's good for artist's sense of purpose and sense of self, and for the quality and worth of their art, and for art as a general practice, to be mindful of those motivations, and to think about where the line between "I need the money because I want to make this" and "I need to make this because I want the money" is.
Capitalism and commodification will eat up everything artists can produce and bend it to rich people's ends. It's hard to escape, but possible to resist.
@joshmillard Jung might have something to say about you making these toots at the exact time I was having a conversation with someone that managed to visit many of these points, and renewed my weird feelings about Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
@rook I wonder how Jung's outlook would differ had he been working in the age of people being Very Online
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