The Art and the Financial Crisis

All economic crises of the past made a definite, sometimes paradoxical impact on the condition of state institutes, societies, art, and even fashion. It is unlikely the present crisis is an exception. Traditionally, one of the first victims of a crisis becomes art. Musicians, actors, artists, and architects face a great reduction in the number of orders. However, a crisis not only makes an influence on art.

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David Trosbi, in the book Economy and Culture, proves that in some cases, a crisis led to the emergence of original masterpieces. An example of this can be the history of the great architect Frank Lloyd Right. By the beginning of the Great Depression he had been a rather well-known expert; however, after the beginning of an economic crisis he was left without work for some years. Nevertheless, he received a number of orders for the construction of private houses, some of which represented a treasury of the world architecture. Then Right became interested in mass construction of inexpensive housing and developed a number of extremely interesting concepts.

A crisis also influences various aspects of fashion. The dependence of the length of skirts on the economy state is widely known. This factor was shown for the first time after the World War II, when women were compelled to save; a reduction in the sizes of skirts and the invention of the “mini” became a result of that.

Victoria Sharrow, the author of the book Encyclopedia of hair. The cultural history, notes that the hair length of Americans directly depends on the condition of the USA economy and, respectively, on the lifestyles which people have. The history of the 20th century shows that at the time of economic difficulties (in most cases, but not always), short hairstyles were in fashion and long hairstyles were widespread in “fat years”. Sharrow explains this fact that long hair is more difficult and more expensive to look after.

Katie Peyss, the author of the book Hope in bank. The creation of the American culture of beauty, analyzes the history of cosmetic companies in the USA. Many of them appeared at the time of economic recessions. As a rule, their success was based on a combination of a number of factors. Women were compelled to save by giving up on professional cosmeticians and expensive production. So, they started to take care of their faces themselves and invented new creams and face packs, which were often homemade. Some of these novelties spread among their girlfriends and, as a result, the trade began. In some cases, the emergence of a new cosmetic empire stemmed from amateur cosmetic performance.

The research of psychologists from Ohio University revealed one more amusing feature of a crisis. They analyzed the images of “models of the year” according to Playboy magazine during the period from 1960 to 2000. They found that during the years when the economy of the USA had a hard time, Playboy made an emphasis on the photos of girls who looked older, thinner, and with a smaller size of a breast. That means that the magazine selected models of the type which his readers considered corresponding to the spirit of the time.

One more consequence of the economic crisis in the USA has traditionally been a growth in the popularity of serious economic, historical, and educational literature. The ratings of sales of a large network of bookshops of the USA, Barnes & Nobles, show that in the second half of 2008, the books describing the turmoil of the Great Depression and the works of economists making recommendations about personal finance management and long-term forecasts the economy’s development, ended up among best-sellers. Besides, the sales of textbooks increased greatly. Americans started to improve their qualifications and, in many cases, went on to get a new profession.

A financial crisis influences cinema as well. The world economic recession began in 2008; however, according to the estimates of the National Association of Cinema Owners, a record number of tickets in U.S. cinemas were sold in 2008. The fans of cinema reacted similarly to the crisis in Great Britain, France, Canada, and Germany.

It is not the only example of such kind. The Great Depression started in 1929, and in 1930, the film studios in the USA reaped a record profit. Apparently, the poverty-stricken people, in spite of serious economic problems, wanted to forget about the unattractive reality and agreed to pay for the ticket. However, in 1931, cinema faced problems again: the number of the audience started to reduce. The National Association of Cinema Owners has put together detailed statistics on cinema attendance since the end of 1970. It shows that in the first year of recession, cinema attendance grows; next years it decreases, sometimes considerably, prior to the beginning of the following economic recovery.

It is interesting that economic crises also influence the contents of films. The researchers who showed that in the crisis years the leading roles were received by the older film actors were published earlier. Moreover, the examples when crises created new “movie stars” are known. For example, Mickey Mouse and Shirley Temple found their world popularity at the time of the Great Depression.

Walt Disney thought up Mickey in 1928, and in 1929 there was the second animated film – Steamboat Willie – about a little mouse that gained popularity. Then, the economy collapsed and the crisis began in the USA. However, Mickey Mouse seems to have taken advantage of it. Animated cartoons about Mickey and his friends, which were set almost every month, radiated optimism and hope for the best. And these were the feelings Americans tried to rekindle. The improbable popularity of the little mouse and the emergence of hundreds of goods bearing his name became a result of it. The politicians and journalists of that time praised Mickey Mouse’s “work” very highly for the preservation of the American national spirit.

The similar destiny expected Shirley Temple, who began to act at the age of six. In 1930s, she possibly became one the most known children of the world; she advanced Clark Gable and May Vest to the ranks of Hollywood movie stars. In fact, in all the films from the era of the Great Depression, a charming Shirley played one role – a witty, talented, and cheerful girl. She radiated optimism. The president Franklin Roosevelt, in one of his speeches, expressed his gratitude to Shirley Temple for lifting people’s spirit at the time of the crisis. It is interesting that the popularity of the young actress descended almost instantly – she stopped receiving role offers at the age of 16. The Great Depression came to an end, and new heroes became fashionable.

In the book The American Cinema of 1930’s. Subjects and Variations, the cinema historian, Ina Hark, notes that the Great Depression almost “buried” film fighters, where Mafiosi were protagonists. The American public practically lost their interest in them, having turned to the films of more cheerful and optimistic content. The end of the Great Depression was marked by the emergence of films which entered the treasury of the world cinema. For example, Gone with the Wind, Grapes of Wrath, and The wizard from the Country Oz. 1939 is considered the last year of the Depression and the “greatest year of Hollywood”.

The similar story occurred with the European and American cinema of “the crisis 1970’s”. Film studios were compelled to refuse from shooting expensive movies, being directed to the cheaper and more “theatrical” films based on the talents of actors and the imagination of directors. These movies, for example Clockwork Orange, are considered as symbols of the time and original works of art nowadays.

The world economic crisis began after a series of stock market falls, which occurred in January-March 2009. The financial crisis concerned many spheres, including the world of art. Public sales for the last months proved it. The situation in the market of art and jewelry considerably worsened. Many art dealers and jewelers preferred to suspend their international projects for the period of the market instability. The crisis was also the reason why sponsors were ever less inclined to support international art events.

The crisis could not deter the gallery business and the commercial success of some artists. However, the experts note that, despite the decrease in the activity of the market, the reduction of the purchasing power of collectors and dealers and the demand for works of art remained at the pre-crisis level.

The culturologist Jeffrey Hayson from Sacred Joseph’s University emphasizes that the economic crises in the field of the mass culture usually pass two stages: at first, the masters of the culture add sentimental optimistic populism to the arsenal ideology, and when the economy starts to improve, there appears a subject of moral and esthetic judgment on the events occurred, which makes the high genres of drama and tragedy more popular.

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