A Heterodox Re-reading of Creative Work: The Diverse Economies of Danish Visual Artists

Ana Alacovska*, Trine Bille

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article investigates the diverse and heterodox array of labour practices and economic activities in artistic work. Existing studies contend that artistic income is highly skewed, with the majority of artists living in poverty, and that artistic work is intermittent, project-by-project based and precarious, with artists juggling multiple jobs. However, these prevalent perspectives typically foreground only formal contractual employment while neglecting the variegated range of informal, alternative and relational economic practices. Building on a mixed method study of Danish visual artists’ livelihoods and drawing on the total social organization of labour perspective, the article maps a diverse spectrum of labour practices ranging from formal paid/unpaid work to informal cash-in-hand work and non-monetized barter exchanges, to wholly non-commodified everyday practices of mutual aid and favour-swapping, as well as ‘consumption work’ such as thrift and self-provisioning. Heterodox economic practices are the primary mode by which artists cope with and manage precarious artistic livelihoods.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1053-1072
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: November 24, 2020.


  • Alternative economies
  • Artistic income
  • Artistic work
  • Creative industries
  • Creative work
  • Cultural economy
  • Diverse economies
  • Heterodox economies
  • Precarity
  • Total social organization of labour

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