Artists strive not only to share their creative works but many also want to be known for their talents. Research is now finding what makes an artist known to the world and the findings may surprise you.
Currently at the Museum of Modern Art, a display in 2012 highlighted the way over 90 abstract artists who were at the forefront of the abstract art movement may have influenced one another. Titled “Inventing Abstraction: 1910–1925,” the display opened with a large diagram of the connecting networks showing how these artists are intertwined. Artist such as Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky find themselves in the center with the most connections. The study aimed to see if artists were known for their creative pieces or rather their connections to already established artists.
In a 2018 paper, “Fame as an Illusion of Creativity: Evidence from the Pioneers of Abstract Art,” Paul Ingram, Chazen Senior Scholar at Columbia Business School, and Mitali Banerjee, Assistant Professor at HEC Paris, find that making friends may be more beneficial to being known than creating the art itself.
Ingram and Banerjee searched each artist in Google and noted the mentions each artist had between 1910 and 1925. Using two methods to rate the artists work, first computer programs and second a set of four historians, each artist was given scores on the work. Putting yourself into more circles can help get you known, rather than keeping to yourself. However, many artist do not seek the notoriety that comes with their art. The findings show that regardless if the artist had high creativity scores, they were not as famous of those who were well connected. They found that a greater predictor of being famous was having contacts and a network of artists in various countries and industries. Another important factor was that the artist they connected with was older. This may be in part due to that they were already established in the abstraction movement that was emerging at the time.
This still can be noted in todays art world especially with the introduction of social media. Now more than ever artists can connect with one another from around the globe. In previous studies it showed a linear effect of creativity equates to fame. These new findings show perhaps a more complex diagram that fame is less about the creative side and more about opportunities from social structure.
The conclusion of these studies were not the creativity but the diversity of an artists networks especially in the brokerage networks. The paper discusses the distinct differences between Suzanne Duchamp, part of the Dada circle and Vanessa Bell who was part of the Bloomsbury group. Duchamp social network was confined to the Dada artists, while Bell's group stretched out through artists who were part of the London Groups including Gertrude Stein. The calculations from their studies show Bell had seventeen percent higher in diversity gaining her identify and a broader audience. So if you are seeking fame, the trick may be in your social networks rather than pushing your artwork on your own.