The labour of visual art in Western Australia

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Sage Publications


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communication and Arts




McKay D. (2014). The labour of visual art in Western Australia. Economic and Labour Relations Review. (pp. 99-114). Available here


This article presents a conceptual model of the labour of visual art developed from the analysis of qualitative data collected from interviews with professional visual artists in Western Australia. The labour discussed relates to the exertions of artists to make places for themselves and their practices within the field of cultural production. It is what Bourdieu has described as a 'specific labour' in relation to milieu. Drawing on Florian Znaniecki's philosophical and sociological work as a means of engaging with the multidimensional cultural values involved, this study found that the interviewed artists laboured across four realms of cultural production. Artists laboured in order to (1) define their practices, (2) create the conditions under which they can continue to practice, (3) attract validations of their practices and artistic identities and all the while they actively laboured to (4) maintain their integrity as an important creative and social resource. These four realms of production are integrated in a dynamic system where artists' efforts in each impact on and influences the products of the others. Over the course of this article, it will be argued that the labour of professional visual art practice can be, and must be, understood across a number of dimensions and systems of cultural values.



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