ATLANTA – Money is a key ingredient in creative expression, according to an economics history professor invited to speak Wednesday at a dinner hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
While the image of the starving artist may be a romantic staple of movies and novels, the most innovative artists of the last 100 years were also the richest, said David W. Galenson of the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for Creativity Economics at the Universidad del CEMA in Buenos Aires.
The marketplace rewards innovation, which fuels more creativity, he said.
“From the Renaissance on, artists were constrained in how much they could innovate by the need to satisfy powerful, usually conservative, patrons,” he said.
The watershed moment was 1874 when painter Claude Monet organized an independent exhibition for himself and his fellow impressionists who had all been shunned by the royal salons. Their financial success cracked the door for other innovators, and in 1907 Pablo Picasso forced the door off its hinges by launching the cubism movement, becoming the wealthiest painter of his generation in the process.
“Collectors quickly recognized that the most innovative art would become the most valuable,” Galenson said.
Dennis Lockhart, president of the Atlanta Fed sought a broader lesson for other aspects of the economy.
“Can you draw analysis between conceptual artists and other groups, the entrepreneurs especially who are looking at conventions in industry say, and where all of those new conventions created a new business model?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” Galensen replied.
Steve Jobs is an example. He didn’t invent the computer, but he developed new ways to use it and pair it with existing devices like telephones, music players and games, the professor said.


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