What Is the Economics of Art and Culture?

  • Bruno S. FreyEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Economics book series (BRIEFSECONOMICS)


The economics of art and culture is a fascinating and worthwhile subject. Its analysis is based on the economic way of thinking. It deals with a large number of diverse issues, such as how valuable art is to society, how the art market and auctions work, the specific characteristics of artists’ labour market, and the role of copies and fakes in art. Various areas of the arts and culture are analyzed, such as opera and theatre, festivals, films, museums, cultural heritage and cultural tourism. Finally, various aspects of the public support for the arts are studied, and it is shown that art makes people happy.


Economics of Art Economics of Culture Cultural Economics Economic approach Non-user benefits Non-economic values Human motivation Mass culture Commercialization Democracy Market 

Related Literature

The extension of economics beyond the economy has been championed by

  1. Becker GS (1976) The economic approach to human behavior. Chicago University Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar

See also, more recently,

  1. Frey BS (1999) Economics as a science of human behaviour. Towards a new social science paradigm. 2nd rev. and extended ed., Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, Dordrecht and London.Google Scholar

The founders of the modern Economics of Art are

  1. Baumol WJ, Bowen WG (1966) Performing arts, the economic dilemma; a study of problems common to theater, opera, music and dance. The Twentieth Century Fund Study, Hartford CTGoogle Scholar
  2. Peacock AT (1993) Paying the Piper. Culture, Music and Money. Edinburgh University Press, EdinburghGoogle Scholar

Survey articles are

  1. Blaug M (2001) Where are we now in the cultural economics? J Econ Surveys 15(2):123–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Throsby D (1994) The production and consumption of the arts: a view of cultural economics. J Econ Lit 32(1):1–29Google Scholar

Much of the content in the present booklet is more extensively treated in the excellent textbooks by

  1. Throsby D (2010) The economics of cultural policy. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Towse R (2010) A textbook of cultural economics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Other textbooks are, for instance

  1. Benhamou F (1996) L’économie de la culture. Editions La Découverte, ParisGoogle Scholar
  2. Frey BS, Pommerehne WW (1989) Muses and markets: explorations in the economics of the arts. Blackwell Publishers, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Gottschalk I (2006) Kulturökonomik: Probleme, Fragestellungen und Antworten. Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, WiesbadenGoogle Scholar
  4. Hutter M, Throsby D (2011) Beyond price. Value in culture, economics, and the arts. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Towse R (2014) Advanced introduction to cultural economics. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham UK and Northampton, MA, USAGoogle Scholar

There are several comprehensive collections of articles, also dealing with aspects not covered in the present booklet:

  1. Ginsburgh, VA, Throsby D (eds) (2006, 2014) Handbook of the economics of art and culture. Volumes I and II. Elsevier, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  2. Towse R (ed) (2003) A handbook of cultural economics. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham UK and Northampton, MA, USAGoogle Scholar

Other collections of articles are

  1. Ginsburgh VA, Menger P-M (eds) (1996) Economics of the arts. Selected essays. Elsevier/ North Holland, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  2. Klamer A (ed) (1996) The value of culture. On the relationship between economics and arts. Amsterdam University Press, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  3. Peacock AT, Rizzo I (eds) (1994) Cultural economics and cultural politics. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  4. Towse R (ed) (2007) Recent developments in cultural economics. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham UK and Northampton, MA, USAGoogle Scholar
  5. Towse R (ed.) (1997) Cultural economics: the arts, the heritage and the media industries. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham U.K. and Lyme, USAGoogle Scholar

Some monographs are, for example

  1. Frey B (2003) Arts and economics. Analysis and cultural policy. 2nd edn. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Mossetto G (1993) Aesthetics and economics. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht and BostonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Throsby D (2001) Economics and culture. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Closely related sociological contributions are

  1. Bourdieu P, Dardel A (1966) L’Amour de l’Art: Les Musées et leur Public. Editions de minuit, ParisGoogle Scholar
  2. DiMaggio PJ (ed) (1986) Nonprofit enterprise in the arts. Oxford University Press, New York and OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Foster, AW, Judith RB (eds) (1989) Art and society. Readings in the sociology of the arts. State University of New York Press, Albany.Google Scholar

The role of competition in classical music is analysed in

  1. Baumol WJ, Baumol H (1994) On the economics of musical composition in Mozart’s Vienna. J Cult Econ 18(3):171–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Vaubel R (2005) The role of competition in the rise of Baroque and Renaissance music. J Cult Econ 29(4):277–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CREW - Center for Research in Economics and Well-BeingUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations