Business

Both art and literature have no value at birth; they assume value only when they are sold, usually by someone other than the artist/author. There, however, the similarity ends, as they are sold in different ways. The principal merchandizing difference between literature and the visual arts is that literature is a wholesale biz and visual art retail. Books are sold in qualities of thousands, paintings in quantities of one. What is the significance of this? It means, first of all, that when it is said a novelist "sells well," his publisher is selling not thousands of copies but tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of copies. When a painter "sells," so to speak, the number of items changing owners can be less than a hundred. In literature, it is possible to speak of popular, if not mass, response to new work; in visual art, really not. Also, a book is sold for only several times production costs, as are men's shirts and other wholesaled items; a painting is sold for many times the cost of its materials, adding even the expense of labor.

On Innovative Art(ist)s (1991)