More Demand, More Paintings

(Photo: Alexis Zegers)

A sign on the wall at an exhibit of René Magritte paintings noted, “Magritte repeatedly painted variants of his subjects, mostly to satisfy demand in the art market.”  Even artists are selling their products, just as businesses do.  When the demand for their product increases, it calls forth a supply.  We also see this in popular literature, where a highly successful mystery writer winds up in a rut writing minor variations of an earlier hit.  Sadly for us economists, this doesn’t seem as easy to do—the premium is on originality and novelty; if today’s demand called forth minor repetitions in what we supply, we soon wouldn’t get the stuff published very well!

Robert Stark

As an artist I beg to differ. After 40 years and hundreds of paintings I can say it takes years of repetition to find one's own recognizable signature. I've painted the same section of my brook over 75 times and it is always a new challenge. My style has changed over the years but there are some of the same elements in today's paintings that were also there in 1970.


It would be like an economist writing a column for the New York Times and another for the Washington Times, with different policy recommendations. Not a bad idea, as long using different pen names.


Really? I find most articles published in academic journals to be variations on a theme, "extensions" into other markets, etc.


Ditto for pop econ books. Many of them rehash the same or similar experiments and findings. This is not necessarily a bad thing, repetition and reinforcement is good (and I can buy my dad a new one for his birthday every year).


This is obvious to anyone working in a fine art gallery. Demand drives what the artist paints. The artist produces what people want. People commission the artist to paint an original painting and the artist then produces limited edition reproductions of that original art. Few artists are able to make a living being artists without name recognition. The demand is for artists with name recognition like we have at But, economists, in my opinion, should publish reality not just what is in demand.


I'd love to see a freakonomics study of his last assertion that only new and original economics publishing begets success. I agree with others here that most academic articles are modest extensions of the known body of knowledge. Only rarely do major departures come forward and they are often debunked quickly (i.e. cold fusion) or held in serious doubt until others are able to reproduce the experiments and publish the results, which is coincidentally, not creative in the sense used by the author.