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Artistic Work in an Entrepreneurial Context

Le travail artistique en régime entrepreneurial

Künstlerische Arbeit im unternehmerischen Kontext

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Published on Monday, March 18, 2019


Ce workshop propose d’interroger la manière dont la poussée générale vers le nouveau régime entrepreneurial se traduit dans les arts. Comment s’articule-t-il au régime de singularité qui prévaut dans cette sphère d’activité depuis la fin du XIXe siècle ? Dans un article prospectif, Simon Borja et Séverine Sofio (2009) estiment que ce nouveau régime est, pour l’heure, davantage actualisé à un niveau idéologique que pratique, exception faite des artistes les plus cotés sur le marché international et ultralibéral de l’art contemporain (comme Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst ou Ai Wei Wei par exemple). Il s’agit, en ce sens, d’interroger ces nouvelles figures de l’« artiste entrepreneur » et de les comparer à des entreprises artistiques passées et présentes dont l’envergure peut fortement varier.


Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association 2019 « The Future of Work »

September 10-12, 2019, University of Neuchâtel


The question of the "future of work" has been a major issue in the social sciences since the observation of an "erosion of the wage society" (Castel 2009) was established in relation to the spread of the "culture of the new capitalism" (Sennett 2006) since the 1970s. This observation has prompted many researchers to question the transformations of work by documenting the precariousness of working conditions, the breakdown of social security systems, the difficulties of professional integration, the weakening of pathways, and the widening of inequalities. Boltanski and Chiapello (1999) refer this new configuration of capitalism to a "projective city" whose role in the diffusion of an "all entrepreneurs" culture is to be questioned here (Abdelnour 2013). Such a labour economy requires individuals to have aptitudes for entrepreneurship (for being able to generate activity, or to be innovative and creative), for flexibility (malleability, versatility, multiplication of activities) and for moral, temporal and relational commitment to markets that favour elective affinity networks. In a logic of extending such an entrepreneurial regime, artistic work is frequently cited by supporters of managerial (Linhart 2015) and social (Darbus 2008) policies as an example to follow for its propensity to produce "opportunities", "creativity", "innovation" and "flexibility".

However, in Portrait de l’artiste en travailleur (2002), Pierre-Michel Menger reminds us that if "creators" are exemplary, it is not so much because they embody this mythological figure of the "inventive, mobile professional set against hierarchies, intrinsically motivated and caught in an uncertain economy". It is rather because "creators" reveal to us transformations "as decisive as the fragmentation of the wage continent, the rise of autonomous professionals, the extent and sources of contemporary inequalities, the measurement and evaluation of skills or the individualization of employment relationships" (p. 8-9) and, one might add, of risks. Having most often escaped the norm of modern industrial wage employment, arts and culture occupations thus appear to be a "laboratory" for analysing degraded forms of wage labour (Ducret et al. 2017). In parallel with the "economicization of culture" since the 1980s (Chapain et al. 2018), the new forms of structuring and organizing wage work seem to have above all led to a renewed interest and legitimacy for research on the arts, variably supported and financed from one national space to another.

This workshop proposes, in this perspective, to question how the general thrust towards this new entrepreneurial regime is being translated into the arts. How does it relate to the regime of singularity that has prevailed in this sphere of activity since the end of the 19th century? In a forward-looking article, Simon Borja and Séverine Sofio (2009) consider that this new regime is, for the time being, more up-to-date at an ideological level than at a practical one -  with the exception of the most highly rated artists on the international and ultraliberal contemporary art market (such as Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst or Ai Wei Wei for example). In this sense, one can question these new figures of the "artist-entrepreneur" and compare them to past and present artistic activities whose scope can vary greatly (Focus 1). How is it possible that financial success can be ensured for artists who run their artistic production activity with a style of management close to the artisanal or industrial entrepreneurship and who nevertheless never cease to denounce such an economic logic? Beyond the "star" or acclaimed artists, what about the "ordinary artists" (Perrenoud and Bois 2017)? This raises the question of how this new regime calls on aspiring artists to manage their careers as "small entrepreneurs" (Focus 2). How is the dilemma between the need to assert oneself as a singular artist and the need for a job, particularly when it is subordinated to other artists, negotiated by those who try to make a living from their art? Finally, what role do "artistic work intermediaries" (Lizé et al. 2011) play in disseminating this entrepreneurial career management standard? More generally, how do institutional arrangements (whether linked to funding, dissemination or consecration) contribute to imposing a more strictly entrepreneurial regime in the arts (Focus 3)?

Focus 1: Figures of the artist-entrepreneur

From Rembrandt’s studio, which operates within a logic of "canonical" art production (Alpers 2001), to the studios of contemporary artists, which sometimes employ more than a hundred people (such as Olafur Eliasson's), historical monographs and current case studies will be welcome to identify the forms taken by the figure of the "artist-entrepreneur" over time. The cases of Mozart (Elias 1991) and, by contrast, Beethoven (De Nora 1995; Bourdieu 2001) have clearly shown the central role that the transformation of artistic fields, in this case the process of empowerment through the emergence of a market in the music field at the turn of the 18th century, plays in the economic entrepreneurship of artists (strategies of placement, self-promotion and sales). In this area, it is a question of taking the structural and vocational conditions seriously (Pinçon and Pinçon-Charlot 2001) for the realization of an artistic entrepreneurship. In opposition to the myth of singularity, the aim is to examine the material (economic resources, workplaces, creative materials) and organisational (administration, management and division of creative work) conditions of artistic production, bearing in mind that this can be taken care of within the artist’s couple as well as within restricted or extended "chains of cooperation" (Becker 1988). In the case of the visual arts, one can think of artists surrounded by a small contingent of assistants as opposed to studios subcontracting all or part of the production to employees or specialized companies. How is the creative process organized in these various situations? What do these different situations imply on a professional level (contractual and daily conditions of collaboration) as well as on a material (techniques, content of artworks), communicational (promotion of the artist's singularity, construction of a brand image) or legal (types of employment contract, authorship) one? Apart from contemporary art, what about spheres that are considered closer to a commercial logic, such as architecture and design, comics or manga, cinema and music? Do areas often characterized by a high level of funding, such as theatre, dance or circus, offer other models of entrepreneurship for analysis?

Focus 2: Entrepreneurial management of ordinary careers

In parallel to these varied figures of the "artist-enterprise" (Greffe 2012), the reflection will also focus on the effects that the diffusion of a standard of entrepreneurial career management produce among "ordinary artists" (Perrenoud and Bois 2017). The vast majority of art professionals are not in a position to achieve an ideal of autonomy (living off their art). In order to maintain one’s activity, it is then essential to meet the demand or to hold multiple jobs (Bureau et al. 2009) - "doing business" or being multi-active - in addition to taking charge of one's artistic career. The need for labour relations retention to overcome uncertainty in a flexible labour market has been well demonstrated, particularly in the case of theatre (Menger 1991; Proust 2002; Bense Ferreira Alves 2007). But what still seems to be under-researched are the effects on the careers of "ordinary artists" of a recruitment that one could coin as "homogamous", that is to say when an artist is sufficiently funded, sold or recognized to be able to hire and pay other artists. What is the relationship between "artist-employees" and the "artist-employers" (or artistic companies) who hire them? What are the contractual conditions that bind them? How is production work divided, and with what challenges, beyond the authorship of the work, on the discovery and ownership of innovative techniques applied to creation? Are there tensions between a logic of productivity and disinterest, of profitability and quality, of innovation and authorship? How, if at all, are these tensions handled by artist-employees in the context of managing their own career? Are there any differences when production work is not delegated to employees of the artistic company but subcontracted to external service providers? More generally, what effects does the organization of production work and the flexibility of the workforce (fixed-term contracts, dismissals, subcontracting) have on the aspirations and management of the trajectory of "artists-employees" or "ordinary craftsmen" (Becker 1988) hired by more renowned artists? It can be assumed that, unlike craftsmen for whom this represents an undeniable symbolic gain, working for artists other than oneself constitutes an opportunity that must remain limited in time for aspiring artists. Otherwise it could lead to a form of relegation when international recognition (by a well-travelled and well-informed public) or even local recognition (on a commission market) are too long desired. The "temptation to become a salaried worker" (Sulzer 2009) could therefore constitute a "realistic" alternative to an entrepreneurial model of artistic consecration or career management. This entrepreneurial model, thus promoted by the current functioning of markets and artistic institutions, is nonetheless inaccessible to most ordinary artists because of their position in artistic employment.

Focus 3: Institutional arrangements and entrepreneurial standards

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of studies on "intermediaries in artistic work" (Lizé et al. 2011). The role of these intermediaries is, on the one hand, to reduce uncertainties that lie in the matching of artists and employers in hyper-competitive markets and, on the other hand, to convert artistic value into economic value (and vice versa). In the light of a trend towards the "managerialization" of their work, one may wonder about the role played by these intermediaries (agents, managers, administrators, etc.) in the dissemination of an entrepreneurial career management standard. Who advises "star artists" and "ordinary artists" in order to develop their artistic activity? And how? More broadly, it seems essential to analyse the genesis of the mechanisms for the supervision of artists. How do access mechanisms to funding (public or private subsidies) or creative spaces ("clusters" or "creative neighbourhoods") contribute to the imposition of an entrepreneurial regime in the arts? Since the 1980s, the promotion of culture as a sector of economic growth has been accompanied by public policies aimed at reconciling art and the economy at the cost of a "managerial turn" (Dubois 1999). In museums, this has resulted in an "entrepreneurial culture" (Poulard 2007) that weakens the ways in which work has been organized until now (imperatives of increasing attendance, project rationale favouring curatorial outsourcing over permanent curators). In what ways do these changes, in addition to encouraging the entry of minor forms of art into museums, favour artistic entrepreneurship (exhibitions and events on renowned artist-entrepreneurs or promotion of artists best positioned in the "creative ecosystem" (Vivant 2015) and most willing to be self-entrepreneurs)? Finally, how do art education institutions, faced with processes of higher education reform, contribute in return to the strengthening of this standard? The promotion of an "all creators" by schools - themselves required to develop services to contribute to their own financing or even to the integration of their graduates - is likely to encourage unequal abilities to use the tools put in place to supervise the professional paths (Rolle 2018) towards this "all entrepreneurs".

Finally, in this workshop, the producers themselves, the artistic intermediaries, the funding institutions, and even the training institutions are all seen as various levels through which an entrepreneurial regime with contrasting effects is being imposed in the arts today. To discuss this, contributions on various artistic genres, and from various disciplines (sociology, history, economy, management or law) are welcome.

This call relates to the activities of the Research Comity of Sociology of the Arts and Culture (CR-SAC) that celebrates its 10 years of foundation in 2019. It is linked to two further calls: “The Future of Work: Art and Artists?” and “Staging concerts: working in live music”.


Thibaut Menoux and Valérie Rolle (University of Nantes, Centre nantais de sociologie, CENS – UMR 6025)


The proposals with a title, the name, status and academic affiliation of the author(s), as well as a summary (at most 5 000 signs) stating the research question, the theoretical framework, the method and the main results are to be sent at art_entrepreneurship@univ-nantes.fr

within the 20th of April 2019, with an indication of the chosen focus.

References cited

Abdelnour Sarah (2013). « L’entrepreneuriat au service des politiques sociales : la fabrication du consensus politique sur le dispositif de l’auto-entrepreneur », Sociétés contemporaines, vol. 89, n°1, 131-154.

Alpers Svetlana (1991). L’Atelier de Rembrandt : la liberté, la peinture et l’argent, Paris : Gallimard.

Becker Howard S. (1988). Les Mondes de l’art. Paris : Flammarion.

Bense Ferreira Alves Celia (2007). « Le théâtre, l’intermittent et le permanent. Coopérer pour se stabiliser dans l’emploi », Sociétés contemporaines, vol. 66, n°2, 17-36.

Boltanski Luc, Chiapello Eve (1999). Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris : Gallimard.

Bourdieu Pierre (2001). « Bref impromptu sur Beethoven, artiste entrepreneur », Sociétés & Représentations, n° 11, 13-18.

Borja Simon, Sofio Séverine (2009). « Productions artistiques et logiques économiques : quand l’art entre en régime entrepreneurial », Regards Sociologiques, n° 37-38, 23-43.

Bureau Marie-Christine, Perrenoud Marc, Shapiro Roberta (dir.) (2009). L’Artiste pluriel. Démultiplier l’activité pour vivre de son art, Villeneuve d’Ascq : Presses Universitaires du Septentrion.

Castel Robert (2009). La montée des incertitudes. Travail, protections, statut de l’individu, Paris : Seuil.

Chapain Caroline, Emin Sandrine, Schieb-Bienfait Nathalie (2018). « L’entrepreneuriat dans les activités créatives et culturelles : problématiques structurantes d’un champ d’étude encore émergent », Revue de l’entrepreneuriat, vol. 17, n° 1, 7-28.

Darbus Fanny (2008). « L’accompagnement à la création d’entreprise. Auto-emploi et recomposition de la condition salariale », Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, vol. 175, n° 5, 18-33.

De Nora Tia (1995). « Beethoven et l’invention du génie », Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, n° 110, 36-45.

Dubois Vincent (1999). La Politique culturelle. Genèse d’une catégorie d’intervention publique, Paris : Belin.

Ducret André, Glauser Andrea, Moeschler Olivier, Rolle Valérie (2017). « Artistic Work as a ”Laboratory” of Labour Market Deregulation? », Swiss Journal of Sociology, vol. 43, n° 2, 239-251.

Elias Norbert (1991). Mozart. Sociologie d’un génie, Paris : Seuil.

Greffe Xavier (2012). L’Artiste-entreprise, Paris : Dalloz.

Linhart Danièle (2015). La Comédie humaine du travail. De la déshumanisation taylorienne à la sur-humanisation managériale, Paris : Erès.

Lizé Wenceslas, Naudier Delphine, Roueff Olivier (2011). Intermédiaires du travail artistique. À la frontière de l’art et du commerce, Paris : DEPS.

Menger Pierre-Michel (2002). Portrait de l'artiste en travailleur. Métamorphoses du capitalisme, Paris : Seuil.

Menger Pierre-Michel (1991). « Marché du travail artistique et socialisation du risque. Le cas des arts du spectacle », Revue française de sociologie, vol. 32, n° 1, 61-74.

Perrenoud Marc, Bois Géraldine (2017). « Artistes ordinaires : du paradoxe au paradigme ? Variations autour d’un concept et de ses prolongements », Biens symboliques, n° 1, 1-36.

Pinçon Michel, Pinçon-Charlot Monique (2001). « Les nouveaux entrepreneurs et la naissance de leur vocation », Cahiers d’économie de l’innovation, vol. 13, n° 1, 9-16.

Poulard Frédéric (2007). « Diriger les musées et administrer la culture », Sociétés contemporaines, vol. 66, n° 2, 61-78.

Proust Serge (2002). « Les formes de la coopération dans le théâtre public », Réseaux, vol. 111, n° 1, 236-258.

Rolle Valérie (2018). « Le double mouvement de professionnalisation de la scène théâtrale romande. Vers une célébration des entrepreneurs singuliers de la création ? », Alternatives Théâtrales, n° 134, (en ligne).

Sennett Richard (2006). La Culture du nouveau capitalisme, Paris : Albin Michel.

Sulzer Emmanuel (2009). « Après les Beaux-arts, la tentation du salariat », in Bureau Marie-Christine, Perrenoud Marc, Shapiro Roberta (dir.). L’Artiste pluriel. Démultiplier l’activité pour vivre de son art, Villeneuve d’Ascq : Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 175-187.

Vivant Elsa (2015). L’Écosystème créatif en Ile de France, Ile de France : Institut d’aménagement et d’urbanisme.



  • Université de Neuchâtel
    Neuchâtel, Switzerland


  • Saturday, April 20, 2019


  • artiste, entrepreneuriat


  • Valérie Rolle
    courriel : art-entrepreneuriat [at] univ-nantes [dot] fr
  • Thibaut Menoux
    courriel : art-entrepreneuriat [at] univ-nantes [dot] fr

Information source

  • Valérie Rolle
    courriel : art-entrepreneuriat [at] univ-nantes [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Artistic Work in an Entrepreneurial Context », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, March 18, 2019, https://calenda.org/583899

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