The global economic recession has caused the Getty Museum, the world's wealthiest arts centre, to slash its budget up to 25 percent, and there is no objection that economic hardship has also been productive for art.

The Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art opened their doors during America's Great Depression.

Photographer Dorothea Lange's image "The Migrant Mother" (seen above) is the essence of the economic hardship.

When times are tough, art can often captivate and inspire the public. Economic crises challenge an established order and art seems to provide answers.

David Philips' seascapes rendered in shredded beer cans are a modern example of art that inspires people to look beyond the day-to-day hardships.

Philips began creating the seascapes after an epiphany when he was enjoying a beer on the beach gazing at the sea.

Museum of Modern Art

Empathy with art consumers probably guided the Museum of Modern Art in its early days.

In a February 2009 article, which examined artistic success in hard times, The New York Times reported the museum's first acquisition was Edward Hopper's "House by the Railroad".

The painting was part of their second exhibit, "Paintings by 19 American Artists." The Times reported that the exhibit had no admission fee.

Hopper's painting of a 19th-Century Second Empire-style home is from a viewpoint where railroad tracks and the land elevating them obscure the bottom quarter of the home.

American Poet Edward Hirsch describes the loneliness that Hopper's painting conveys in his poem "Edward Hopper and the House by the Railroad". A large home abandoned might evoke the emptiness of material things.


Exposing the vulnerability of the material world resonated with people at the Museum of Modern Art's second exhibit.

Dorothea Lange is probably best known for her image "Migrant Mother," a photograph made while she shot for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). The FSA was part of the New Deal under President Franklin D.Roosevelt.

Unemployment had reached almost 25 percent when Roosevelt began his presidency. FSA photographers wanted to show the effects of the Great Depression and changes that mechanization was bringing to America's farms.

While the story behind the picture is subject to differing accounts, Lange's image became the human face staring out at the crisis. The image's publication influenced the government and the public to do more for America's agricultural workers.

Aluminium Artistry

A beer and the ocean were all Dave Philips needed to inspire his artwork. "I had a can of beer in my hand and I was staring out to sea, and then it hit me – I could combine the two," Philips told the Metro.

Also, the current recession struck his work as a property developer which probably added some motivation to create.

An article in What's On reported that Mike Hocking, who runs Masa Fine Art gallery at the Royal William Yard, valued Philips' work at £4,000 per piece.

Both the Metro and What's On Southwest reported that Philips' work is unique in that he is believed to be the only artist using shredded beer cans to create textures in his paintings.

Perhaps the world can look forward to more artistic innovations as the economy continues to flounder. The Associated Press has outlined the economic activity worldwide as a story which includes growth revised downwards.

These are great conditions for history to repeat itself and for art to flourish.

Courtesy of Library of Congress
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Bad economy makes good art

By: Andrew Otto