Can Money Improve Art?

Food for Thought @ Taiwan Pork Chop House

I’ve never seen any compelling evidence. That’s why I generally don’t bother with expensive restaurants.

In literature, the answer is pretty obvious. It’s not like investing millions of dollars in a novel would make it any better.

In cinema, most directors gradually climb the budget ladder, which allows us to compare their earlier films and their later films. In many cases, the earlier ones are better, and in most cases, they don’t get any better.

How about music? Having more money allows you to compose larger orchestral work, but is it better than a solo piano piece? I personally prefer simpler arrangements like solo piano and string quartet. Getting rid of all the embellishments and excesses allows me to focus on the musical substance. Any untalented composers can buy impressive scale and volume if they have enough money. I’m more impressed by hearing how much creativity can be expressed with a piano alone, like Erik Satie did, than with a huge orchestra like Claude Debussy did.

Fine art is similar to cinema in that we typically see artists climb the budget ladder too, but their defining pieces almost always come when they were still struggling artists. Many of them spend the rest of their careers simply making larger variations of the same idea. It’s like how tech startups work. In the early stages, entrepreneurs try to find the so-called “product-market fit” (an idea that shows a viral potential in market demand), and once found, venture capitalists pour money into it to scale the idea.

So, how about food? It’s more deceptive. As the budget goes up, the higher the quality of ingredients can be. This seems to mean it’s better, but again, like in movies, higher-quality ingredients are like the high production value of Hollywood movies. Hollywood produces countless crap movies every year with the best possible equipment, talents, and cutting edge visual effects. Film connoisseurs are not fooled by these spectacles, but for some reason, food connoisseurs are. I think the food world can use more critical perspectives.

A higher budget increases the number of possible ingredients you can use, and it’s tempting to think that the greater the possibilities, the more creative you can be, but that is not the case.

The board for shogi, Japanese chess, has 81 squares whereas the one for chess has 64. Not only that, in shogi, you are allowed to use the pieces captured from your opponent. These differences make shogi significantly more complex than chess. In terms of the theoretical possibilities, the difference is massive, but does this make shogi a better game? No. Adding more possibilities only changes the nature of the game; nothing more.

Not only that, in art, rules can be broken. These factors make the number of theoretical possibilities irrelevant. Any artists complaining about the lack of possibilities are proving their own lack of creativity.