Successful entrepreneurs are artists
How to be successful as an artist
Magnus Resch's study of the mechanics of artistic success stirs the mind. His diagnosis: On the art market, the network alone counts. Monopoly sums up the most important things again
Why is it so hard to talk about success in the art world?
Hardly anyone can really say why some artists are considered successful and others are not. Some sell their works dearly, but are disregarded by the critics, others are so-called artist-artists, i.e. mainly recognized by their colleagues. Still others only have to hope for fame afterwards. The nihilistic variant - supported by a study this summer - claims that artists have no desire to earn money anyway. The most difficult of all categories, namely quality, has not yet been mentioned. In short, success in the art world is not that easy to measure, let alone quantify. Success is determined by a tangle of social interactions.
Why did Magnus Resch's scientists try anyway?
Resch is an entrepreneur and economist, which is why he is an expert in data and numbers. In addition, in his doctoral thesis he analyzed what makes a gallery successful, so he is also familiar with the art market. He became famous for his app "Magnus", a kind of Shazam for art. With this, Resch collected the data for the study by the network theorists Laslo Barabasi, Sam Fraiberger, Christoph Riedl and Robert Sinatra, published in the renowned American journal "Science". The amount of data is considerable. It is fed by the careers of half a million artists, hundreds of thousands of galleries, museums and auctions. And why is Resch doing this? "It's frightening that artists at the academies learn how to hold a brush, but not how the art market works," he said in an interview with Monopoly.
What did the scientists find out?
"From the Mona Lisa to the Basquiat everything is flea market - if it weren't for the network," write Resch and his colleagues in "Science". Because without the network it is not possible to determine the value of works of art. For something to have market value, there must be people who agree that it has that value. In addition, the well-known who-knows-whom should now be scientifically robust. Access to institutions is limited, we know that. But it is disheartening to realize that there is hardly any upward mobility. Where an artist has his first exhibitions determines his future path. There are so-called island networks, according to the study. Artists stay on their islands, made up of galleries and institutions that exhibit the same artists. Therefore, the economist and the network theorists can derive a model from the collected data with which one can predict the career opportunities of artists. And one hub in the network stands out in particular: the MoMA in New York, and a number of galleries from the top market segment: the Gagosian Gallery, Pace Gallery and David Zwirner.
What do you have to do to be successful?
Well, not much as an artist. Resch advises: "You have to be an entrepreneur. So work hard on building your brand and network." But with this he actually contradicts the results of the study, after all, the islands of the art market are pretty lonely. As an entrepreneur, it hurts him to call for government intervention, says Resch. But it probably needs it.
And what does it all mean for the art world?
It looks like the art world is a system with impenetrable barriers. You have to be lucky enough to start at a strategically convenient point in the network. But that also applies - at least in the USA, as Tim Schneider explains for "Artnet" - for society as a whole. If you widen your view and look at other areas of society, the diagnosis is less surprising: The starting conditions determine how things continue.
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