17 July 2007

Managing the Arts

What is the difference between art management and business management? I am often asked and requested to give a talk and paper on this topic simply because I happen to have the experience of both. I have managed projects and programs for individuals and institutions/organizations for 15 solid years! The range of this responsibility and commitment are mostly for non-profit, volunteer work and free consultancy. Well, not if you consider artworks and lunches as honoraria.

The need to understand and integrate effective and sustainable management of ideas and resources must always border on an open, honest assessment of vision and capabilities. It works for both business and the arts. The only difference is that art is "not-for-profit", meaning art productions are not generally considered as 'commodities' even if some of them have practically crossed the line as commercial, if not 'commercialized'. Although businesses aspire for a higher rate of return on investment, artists and the arts merely cover the cost of production, marketing and the artist's fee. I once proposed a cost analysis structure for works in the visual arts but this was considered too 'corporate' (read: business standard) without understanding that the overpriced works in the market has actually lowered the standard (a lot of works I see have depreciated) and the weak curatorial authority (this can include artists too since some of them market/curate their own works!) have practically diminished the need to really marry their vision to their creation. However, I find more rational structures in the performing arts like theater, cinema, music, dance and in architecture and literary arts. Somehow, even with the non-profit objective, artists and organizations have established the equivalence of an 'industry rate' standard.

But management theories are not absolutes. Theories, after all, do conform and adopt to the existing scenarios (sometimes creating new theories as well) that can somehow provide sustainable and doable structures for both non-profit and profit-driven imperatives.