The Work of Art
Value in Creative Careers
Alison Gerber


Contents and Abstracts
1 Art Work?
chapter abstract

This chapter introduces the reader to the book's focus on valuation, explains its use of artistic practice as an object of study, and situates the research in economic sociology. It provides an overview of the research the book is based on and points to the questions that drive the rest of the book.

2 The Work of Art
chapter abstract

This chapter presents the historical context for the remainder of the book, and argues that an occupational turn has changed the art field and the valuation of artistic practices over the past fifty years. It considers the ways that artists' engagements with markets and demands for remuneration have changed over time, and shows how artistic practice has come to be understood as a job by a majority of artists. The chapter shows how the assumption that art is and should be work has structured conflict over the valuation of artistic practice.

3 Making Cents of Art
chapter abstract

This chapter presents two instrumental accounts of value that are widespread in art worlds: pecuniary and credentialing accounts. The contours of each are discussed, and their relative legitimacy and legibility in and outside of art worlds are considered.

4 Making Sense of Art
chapter abstract

This chapter presents two additional accounts of value that are widespread in art worlds: vocational and relational accounts. The contours of each are discussed, and the chapter ends with a discussion of the ways in which new accounts are institutionalized.

5 This Way Be Monsters
chapter abstract

This chapter argues that the four types of account discussed in previous chapters together create and define the field of art practice. It shows how a historically, culturally, and nationally specific landscape of value is constructed through the interaction of broadly shared accounts, and explains how artists and others use its boundaries to determine whether or not a given individual, practice, or artwork is legitimate. It focuses on the relationship between vocational and economic accounts, and contrasts the book's findings with the expectations of a Bourdieusian framework.

6 Doing Things with Words
chapter abstract

This chapter discusses the interactional context of interview and ethnographic research on valuation and explores the methodological ramifications of dependence on secondary sources. It argues that agentic valuation practices, including revaluations and conflict over valuation, are difficult to observe in public speech but readily accessible in interactive contexts.

7 The Audit of Venus
chapter abstract

This chapter looks at the ramifications of an emphasis on conflict between aesthetic and economic goals in public life by investigating one artist's tax audit. It shows how insisting on a dualism between artistic and materialistic concerns hurts artists, and it argues that the book's findings allow for a fuller understanding of artistic practice and meaning in working life.

Methodological Appendix
chapter abstract

This methodological appendix discusses the process of the research behind the book and the choices made by the author in data collection and analysis.