Being an artist rarely leads to financial gain. In many Western countries, artists can therefore request state subsidies. While subsidies are meant to ensure artists’ autonomy by protecting them from the laws of the market, the logic of the state itself does not leave the art world unaffected, either. The relationship between the state and the arts is understudied in empirical sociological research. Combining pragmatist and critical art sociology, in this dissertation, I examine to what extent the neoliberalization and professionalization of Flemish cultural policy over the period 1965 to 2015 reflected in 1) the ways visual artists legitimized their applications and 2) the judgments of the evaluating committee. To this end, I analyze 494 grant proposals of Flemish visual artists and 12,254 decisions of the evaluating committee. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, I find, among other things, that over time artists became less inclined to present themselves as romantic, suffering artists and more as entrepreneurs, academics, and questioners of social inequality. Further, the committee, which before 1990 frequently supported both debutant and oft-subsidized applicants, was after the 1990s sharply less inclined to subsidize first-time applicants. Artists’ justifications and the committee’s evaluations did thus indeed change with cultural policy. Still, this cannot be plainly read as a loss of autonomy for the visual arts. Alongside social, academic, and entrepreneurial discourses, artists still used justifications rooted in an artistic vocation and esthetics. Moreover, besides changing demands from the state, the tendency of the art world itself to continually innovate has been a motivator for artists to engage with other fields, such as politics and science. In turn, the committee’s changing selection pattern is no direct evidence of a conscious preference for reputationally established artists. Awarding grants primarily to artists who have previously received grants may reflect consistency in the committee’s esthetic judgment, allowing it to show that it “knows what it is doing,” which is vital for organizations that often receive social critique. Yet the entry of entrepreneurial language into artists’ discourse shows a certain acceptance of the “established order,” and the recent choices of the committee, because of which newcomers have less chance to obtain a grant, affect artists’ careers.