“ART is art. Everything else is everything else” was the declaration of the painter Ad Reinhardt, best known for his black canvases, designed to put an end to abstract expressionism and indeed painting itself. But not all art is of the same form as Reinhardt’s own spectacularly boring output.

Despite the longstanding ability to reproduce paintings through copies or prints, or the last century in which photography brought paintings to a mass audience, or the recent advances in digital technology which allow you to see, down to an almost microscopic level, the world’s greatest masterpieces while sitting in your own room on the other side of the globe, there is still the sense that the only way to see a picture is to stand in front of the thing itself.

That’s not true of L’année dernière à Marienbad, or Paradise Lost, or Steely Dan’s Aja. Certainly, appreciation of those masterpieces may be enhanced by a good print on a big screen, a lavishly produced edition on fine paper, or a really good stereo system, but the items themselves are intrinsically reproducible. Every live performance of a play or a symphony, however, is a unique work of art.

In the course of the last century or so, the economics of various branches of the arts have been affected by these considerations. Even literature, which has, since the invention of printing, been a medium designed to reach its audience through mass distribution, the quality of which is not much affected by the means of delivery, has been disrupted by the universal ability to duplicate.

Bootleg recordings, breach of copyright and all the other forms of piracy that amount to theft from “content creators”, in the current revolting jargon, have always been around, but the situation becomes acute when anyone with a phone can do what previously required expensive and specialist equipment.

In the 19th Century, musicians derived their income entirely from live performance; in the mid-20th Century, almost all the money came from recordings — indeed, by the 1970s, touring bands lost money, regarding it as promotion for sales of their albums. Now the situation is reversed. No one expects to make money from CDs (remember them? They were a hot thing in the late 80s); it’s the live experience which generates income, since it’s the one thing you can’t find or reproduce online for nothing.

So what happens now that Broadway is dark, cinemas are shut and, to take a random example, the National Gallery has postponed its forthcoming exhibition devoted to Artemisia Gentileschi? Top-flight and international football clubs, like global fast-food chains, may be able to weather the hit to their income that the coronavirus has provoked, but most of the arts world is in a similar position to small businesses such as independent restaurants and bars.

One imagines that, with huge numbers confined to their homes, Netflix might actually do well out of the current situation, but even that isn’t cut and dried: yesterday, Sky and BT Sport announced that they were suspending billing pubs and other outlets that screen their coverage, presumably no small part of their revenue stream.

Creative destruction, in the economic sense identified by Joseph Schumpeter, is no such thing when events conspire – as in the current crisis – to hit good and bad enterprises alike. And while few people will think of, say, the Royal Ballet or Scottish Opera as being frontline services like the NHS or the food supply chain, the creative industries produce a significant part of the UK’s income, contributing more than £100 billion a year and, incidentally, growing at twice the rate of other parts of the economy.

Like everything else you can think of, that’s going to require practical, financial support. What is less urgent to consider, but may in the long term prove as important, are the ways in which artists and art forms may adapt to and interpret this odd new world.

Photography transformed painting. The introduction of sound to film ended and launched careers. Napster and Spotify transformed the music industry. Screens changed the way people read; podcasts reinvented radio. The digital revolution has revolutionised access and spawned an almost unlimited archive. Art may be meant to disturb, as Braque claimed, but is also most interesting when it is itself disturbed.

The art world may currently be wondering where the rent money’s going to come from. But it may soon have something to tell us about our lives in an era when everything is connected, and simultaneously isolated.