The Gift

This is an excerpt from Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift:

The initial gift is what is bestowed upon the self- by perception, experience, intuition, imagination, a dream, a vision or by another work of art…The ability to do the labor is the second gift…Men or women of talent must work to perfect their gifts, of course; no one is exempt from the long hours of practice…The artist makes something higher than what he has been given, and this, the finished work, is the third gift, the one offered to the world in general or directed back specifically to the “clan or homeland” of an earlier gift. (pg.248)

Overall, the book is exceptional. Hyde looks at art’s function in society today, by way of the history of gift giving. He posits that art can occupy the market economy as well as what he refers to as the gift giving economy. In seeking this balance, the artist bows to both logos and to eros. If the artist fails to meet market necessities, he or she will starve. If the art-making is driven solely by the market, the resulting product will be a commodity.

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