Canterbury, England

Michael Stevenson

Herbert Read Gallery

In his book Why Are Artists Poor? The Exceptional Economy of the Arts (2004), artist-economist Hans Abbing explains the financial hardships most artists experience in terms of contradictory spheres. Artists are commonly held to participate in a morally superior “gift sphere” that promotes sharing, generosity, social justice, and respect for nonmonetary values. They also necessarily participate in the market sphere, though to do so profitably most artists largely need to disavow it. Thus artists are forced to reconcile contradictory roles: Selfless gift-givers, they are also gamblers in a punishing winner-take-all system.

Michael Stevenson’s exhibition “Rakit” and the longer-term project of which it is part are at one level an exploration of art’s gift economy. The project centers on a factual episode in the life of the reclusive Scots-born Australian painter Ian Fairweather. An extreme

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