Interesting Data on the State of Argentine Artistic Practice

Although I certainly recognize its epistemological limits, I’m still kind of a fiend for data about groups and societies. So I was super-excited to find that Gabriela Schevach (Juanele’s Spanish-language editor) had written this feature about the data-collection project that the new group base D datos (“database”) launched a few months ago at arteBA. Her piece is well worth a read; as she makes clear, the numbers that base D datos has assembled so far are a fascinating if imperfect window into the state of art as a profession here in Buenos Aires. (By the way, if you’re at all interested in critiques of pragmatism in social inquiry, you should check out this article from the ever-useful Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, especially the section on Critical Theory, Pragmatic Epistemology and the Social Sciences.)

base D datos distributed a 13-question survey to 300 art professionals holed up in La Rural for arteBA. (You can see this survey at the bottom of the post.) They presented their preliminary data at a recent Centro Cultural Rojas symposium on “art and the public sphere.” Here’s what they’ve got, in a handy graphic:

There are some interesting things here. Remarkably, only 33% of respondents say they’ve ever bought a work of art. (This among a group sampled at an event that 66% of them called a “commercial art fair,” no less.) And it doesn’t seem like the non-art-professional segment of society is picking up much of the slack. It’s hard to make it as a career artist anywhere, of course, but among the set of artists who responded–more than 55% of whom identify as professional–only about 25% say they earn enough to pay all their monthly bills. As Gabi observes, 68% acknowledge that their creative works can’t even carry them through the first week of the month. Almost none have an assured retirement (6%) or employment insurance (5%). Not such a cushy life.

As someone who thinks a lot about institutions, I was drawn to one pair of questions in particular. Question six asks the self-identified artists whether they know of groups designed to organize them to collectively confront the challenges that accompany artistic practice; only 13% say yes. Yet in response to question seven, 80% of artists say that such an organization is “necessary” (and less than 1% are sure that it isn’t). One has to wonder what the groups that these 13% had in mind are doing, given the huge demand that seems to exist among a surprisingly vulnerable artistic population. It’s a remarkable failure, especially in a political system as corporatist as Argentina’s.

Here’s the survey, in case you’re curious to see the questions asked. And don’t forget to give Gabi’s post a read.

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