Measuring the value of service industries, including the arts, presents challenges for the delivery of efficient government policies and programs. Goods and services related to the arts may be traded in their own right, but they may also be traded indirectly when embodied as intermediate inputs into other goods and services traded elsewhere in the economy. The value of the arts may therefore be misrepresented and misunderstood. This paper discusses the implications of this, focusing on the visual arts sector and its role as an embodied service in Australia’s domestic and international travel and tourism industry. The paper draws attention to the value of the arts in understanding the role of innovation and creativity in supporting Australia’s productivity and competitiveness. It concludes that the traditional approach to investment in the arts may be suboptimal in terms of increasing the sector’s potential contribution to artistic and economic outputs.