One of our friends has a young Cuban lover and she goes to visit him there periodically. This situation spurred some reflection: “Why are there so many artists and musicians in Cuba?” The next thought “Well, why not?” In the U.S. when Johnny decides to ignore his family’s advice and take up oil painting or guitar playing instead of investment banking it is a big crisis. Johnny is very likely giving up the opportunity to own real estate, send his kids to private school, and otherwise enjoy the great festival of materialism that is the United States. In an economy with hardly any opportunity, however, why wouldn’t a person choose to do art or music?
Art doesn’t require a lot of capital investment. You really just need a crayon and some paper (or scissors and paper if you were Matisse). If human ability is equally distributed across the globe you’d therefore expect the best art to come from the poorest countries where people have no competing bourgeois job offers. Yet paradoxically the art for which people are willing to pay the most money seems to come from advanced economies such as Germany, England, Japan, and the U.S.
For the comment section: Why?
[I’ll start by throwing out a personal opinion: art can only touch you if the artist shares a similar social and economic environment, which is why Westerners mostly like the art that is produced in Western countries; art produced in poor countries is actually much better but we can’t appreciate it because, despite heavy doses of ecotourism, we can’t understand the milieu in which it was produced.]