Otto Freundlich. The artist and the economic crisis.

by florence cheval

Today, poverty has virtually been legitimized, affecting nearly the whole of our nation. Poverty is the great leveler, and what until recently was carefully kept quiet has now become the topic and main interest of public opinion. The painter or the sculptor, pursuing his profession without guarantee of a secure existence, almost invariably owes his livelihood to chance, since the number of art works traded in the art market and purchased at exhibitions has always been quite small compared to the number of actively working artists. Today, however, even this small element of chance has all but disappeared. (…) Given that state and municipal budgets for purchasing works of art have been almost completely cut and the few remaining funds hardly stand in proportion to the number of artists, one must attempt to revitalize or reawaken the public and private interest in artistic works of high quality. It requires one to sever one’s view of the future if one should wish to see or hear anything but familiar commonplaces. (…) The most important role in the development of an artist is his inner decisiveness. It enables him to progress from apprentice to master. The mental forces of a master have become known to him and he is thus in a position to choose and to decide. (…) For despite all political and economic crises, these artists have remained true to themselves and continue to serve that great formative and transformative process that is a matter of sacred importance. Why not deepen one’s knowledge and insight with advancing age? Why disown one’s responsibility towards future generations, for whom a spiritual heritage must be preserved and to whom it must be passed on? Why surrender and allow cunning and unscrupulous picture manufacturers, helped by their equally unscrupulous and undiscerning clients, to regain their power in the public sphere, after it has been wrested from them in decades of struggle for the truth? There is no economic crisis capable of suffocating true enthusiasm for the free play of creative ideas. These creative ideas alone are proof of the vitality and viability of a generation. It is the duty of those whose wealth remains intact and who do not belong to the herd of ignorant soldiers of fortune to support artistic quality in spite of the poor economy.

Excerpt from The Artist and the Economic Crisis by Otto Freundlich (1931)

This text has been translated into English thanks to the artist Per-Oskar Leu and Triple Canopy.

It is available as a pdf here: