Kunstnere i Norge: Ulikhet i inntekt, arbeid og holdninger
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The English title of this thesis is “Artists in Norway. Inequality in income, work and attitudes.” The study is based on data collected from two nationwide surveys of artists’ work and income conditions conducted in 2006–2007 and 2014 respectively (Heian et al., 2008; Heian et al., 2015). The data material consisted of detailed information about the artists’ income, background variables such as gender, age, place of residence and education, work-related variables such as time spent, work experience, career disruption, employment affiliation (permanent employment/freelance/ self-employed, and questions about the artists’ attitudes to their own work and income situation.
In the sociology of art, the heritage of Bourdieu has affected many academic contributions. Although Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical and methodological framework is emphasized in this thesis, the thesis is also built upon an eclectic use of various academic contributions that in different ways can complement, rather than oppose, each other. Art sociologists, in line with a Bordieuan perspective, often see it as their task to oppose the traditional perceptions of the arts and demystify the role of the artist. At the same time, they also strongly emphasize the ideal of the autonomous artist. The same applies to this thesis. Simultaneously, I have tried to paint a nuanced picture of what characterizes the Norwegian artists’ work and income situation by studying how inequality is expressed in different ways by means of four inequality dimensions and with the help of related research questions:
These dimensions and research questions are studied further in five articles.
Following the inequality dimension I, the article “Stability and change”, which is based on the Artist Survey 2006, provides an overview of some sociological, demographic and economic characteristics of the Norwegian artist population. The article documents a skewed and asymmetric income distribution among Norwegian artists. Visual artists and other selfemployed artists take more economic risks than employed artists do, and female artists generally have lower artistic income than their male colleagues. We conclude that Norwegian artists’ work and income situation is characterized by both some stabile structures and some main changes. One stable feature is a persistent imbalance between supply and demand (excess supply disease), which consequently leads to a structurally low-income problem. This imbalance is believed to be reinforced by increasing recruitment, thereby causing even tougher competition for contracts, jobs and customers.
However, to what extent the low level of income can be explained by the high recruitment, and what may be due to other factors is challenging to investigate empirically. In the article “Why are artists getting poorer? About the reproduction of low income among artists”, we show that the correlation between the artist population growth and the development of artistic income is not consistent in all artist groups. Our conclusion is that it is uncertain to what degree the artists’ weak income development can be explained by the growth in the number of artists. There is reason to believe that external factors can affect revenue developments in different artistic markets in different ways. We also find a clear decline in cultural consumption among Norwegians, while the purchasing power increased significantly. Which mechanisms influence artists’ revenue development require specific studies of different artist groups.
Based on inequality dimension II, the article “Norwegian artists and the double inequality paradox” documents that Norwegian male artists have generally higher incomes than female artists. However, there is little evidence of what causes this income gap. This study indicated that income differences between male and female artists, only to a little degree, can be seen in conjunction with background variables such as education, working hours and artistic occupation. These variables are important for gender income inequality in other professions. The gender income inequality in artistic occupations, where the ideals of independence and autonomy, and the belief in the artistic talent are the keys to success, I characterize a double equality paradox. However, the question of why male artists generally have higher incomes than their female colleagues is still unanswered. To gain more knowledge about gender inequality in the field of art, it is necessary to study recruitment mechanisms, expectations, choices and perceptions, which may affect artistic professions and positions, and to figure to what degree that affect the gender income gap.
Inequality dimensions III and IV are followed, respectively, by the articles “The pityful ascetic and the successful artist. Artists’ attitudes to work, money and recognition” and “Artist or entrepreneur? Norwegian artists’ attitudes to their own economy, entrepreneurship and commercial success”. In both these articles, we find attitudes that correspond with the idea that the charismatic artist role is still widespread in the artist population. In line with the descriptions of the concept of double economy, we find clear opposites between artistic value and money, and a clear resistance to commercial goals. We also find a resistance among the artists to use the term entrepreneurs about themselves. At the same time, in both these articles the analyses indicate that the neutral attitudes to money, recognition, commercial success and entrepreneurship are the most dominant. The widespread neutral attitudes can be interpreted as an expression that many Norwegian artists, despite low artistic income, have both the ability and opportunity to maintain adequate living conditions by obtaining other income, primarily through the artistic-related and non-artistic work. The Norwegian welfare state also contributes so that artists can maintains a certain standard of living.
Are there any political solutions that can reduce inequalities in the Norwegian artist population? Perhaps processes aimed at specific artistic groups can help increase revenues for some artists. It is, however, not obvious that it will work in the field of art. We have inadequate knowledge about how the artists relate to gender inequality and equality policy. Therefore, it may be difficult to implement equality measures in parts of the art field where autonomy is still strong.
When it comes to the overall low-income problem among the artist population, there is currently little reason to believe that the cultural policy can solve it. Cultural policy grants will probably not raise the income level of the artist population, without restricting recruitment simultaneously. Artist organizations are against such restrictions, and this is not a topic that Norwegian culture politicians are concerned about. Probably it is not even possible to control the recruitment. The shift in cultural policy towards attempting to increase artists’ income through the business field approach is still uncertain, and so far, there are insufficient indications to believe otherwise.
The knowledge that the thesis brings forth provides a basis for new studies along both the inequality dimensions I have studied and other inequality dimensions in the art field. The active Norwegian artist policy and political initiated income surveys have enabled this type of study by Norwegian artists based on rich empirical material. The Norwegian studies in this field can therefore also be of international interest.