Graphic arts have a particularity. They catch the attention of all those who enter in visual contact with them.
This basic assumption seems to have been the cause behind the financing of the different forms of graphic arts throughout history and among all civilizations. Let's be clear, without financing, art would never have acquired its respectable status as we know it nowadays. Without financing, art would have remained limited to a hobby, executed after the job at best, relegating its practitionners to very few possibilities of qualitative development. Above all this activity would always have remained for the exclusive consumption of its practitioners with no outlet to the society at large. In such conditions, it's difficult to imagine how an art creator could have spent his time, let's even not speak about most of his time, toiling for nothing as a survival reward. And if one's artistic activity had not got the chance to be pursued over the long haul than we can safely conclude that quality growth would not have ensued. It is, indeed, this long time span in an artist's life that allows him to mature, to reach for the best of himself. Here we are thus. An artist's daily needs have to be satisfied or to put it otherwise, his needs have to be financed through purchases of his productions or through different means.
For sure, purchases of art productions have taken different forms throughout history and civilizations. We can argue that the word purchases does not give the right description of how an artist was sometimes given to spend his time in his art instead of being obliged to toil for his survival. But what is a constant is that the long time span in an artist's life has always been freed of the necessity to toil for survival. In primitive communism, artists shared the fruits of their communities collective toiling. But with the advent of exchange economies the needs of artists had to be financed, or through purchases of their productions or through financing of their material needs, these two terms conveying to the same outcome, the liberation of the obligation to toil for one's survival.
By the end of the day, it is this same financing that gave their exposure to art works. And by doing so, art works appreciated in value. At this stage of the argument we have reached the economic logic that drives the art market. Sure enough, primitive communism and exchange economies led to different artistic approaches but the only thing that counts in the end is that the art market today overwhelmingly embraces the lifes of all artists on our planet.
The art market in its present day form originated in Europe as early as the 13-14th century. Being interested to understand where art stands today, the next steps of my argument shall naturally concentrate on the historic developments in the Western world.
The foremost lesson that history impresses is that the financing of the artistic activity is in reality shaping the forms of the artistic creations. The artist represents in his creations what has been ordered to him by his paying patrons.
From prehistoric cave art to oil paintings in the Christian cathedrals in 17th, 18th century Europe, the artists have represented visual representations of the beliefs of their societies or to be more accurate, the beliefs that the elites of their societies wanted their societies to honor. The elites or the institutions that they controlled used art creations as means to indocrinate their followers and as such we can assert that art was the advertisement of those times. Art represented animism in the caves and Christianity in the catedrals...
With the advent of the knighthood and the aristocracy in the Middle Ages, art ordering continued to serve as advertisement for the religious creed, religious and temporal power were indeed intertwinned.
The contacts of the European aristocracy with foreign lands outside Europe shall shape a new outlook. During their crusades (12th-14th centuries) the European aristocrats discover luxuries and richnesses absolutely unknown about in Europe. Unfortunately, the only thing they could think about was plunder. But from this horror will ensue a great cultural leap forward for europe. Plundering the Muslim lands of the Middle East will introduce in Europe's palaces and castles the first non advertisement creations: silks and porcelain from China, copper wares, carpets and tapestries from the Middle East and so on. This is ultimately what in the centuries following the crusades will help to root firmly the concept of interior decoration in Europe.
Unfortunately again, from these first ventures out of their own lands, the European aristocracy and their merchants developped a real thurst for more foreign adventures and lootings. Borrowing navigation techniques from the arabs and Chinese and adding their own technical improvements, adventurous mediterraneans by the second half of the 15th century will go after new lands to plunder. And here again we can't but marvel at how a true horror story led finally to one of the most impressive transforming forces in human history.
With the advent of capitalism in the 16th , 18th centuries and after, we can see the new rich in Europe and its outgrowth positions aping the aristocracy, building castle after castle that in a first stage they filled with what had been looted in foreign lands. Only in later stages, did they start wanting to differentiate themselves from their peers through purchases of original creations by local craftsmen. This is the time when painters were ordered portraits and landscapes, weavers were ordered tapestries, wood crafters were ordered furnitures and so on. In this last period, art shifted resolutely from pure advertisement of religious messages to interior decoration as such. That's also the time when French kings launched the production of luxuries in State Manufactures, as economic answer to British rising sea dominance and growing economic power acquired for a huge part through sea piracy. The best craftsmen and artists from Flanders, the Italian cities and Germany will be attracted to France through very favourable policies. State manufactures plus the best of Europe's craftsmen of the time, that's what in the end will impose French aristocratic culture on all European royal courts and their aristocracies. French talent for devising and producing luxury goods dates from those times it is also the time when Paris established itself as the cultural center of the world.
With the firmer rooting of industrialization throughout the 18th century coton industry buildup in Britain a new trend toward massification will slowly emerge. The masses were offered cheap socks and the explosion of demand that followed acted as an eye opener for capital holders. The 19th century saw the opening of a new economic front toward the masses that expanded gradually from the textile industry to other industries. The market for mass interior decoration goods finds its roots in this capitalistic expansion. More and more people get the means to buy artistic creations and art resolutely detaches itself from advertisement to satisfy people's interior decoration needs.