Magnus Resch has never hesitated to disrupt the art world. During his time as an art economist, Yale professor, and gallery owner, Magnus’ many commentaries on the inner workings of the art market, though controversial, have been both meticulous and unerring in their sense of where and how the art world needs to modernize.
In his latest bestselling book, ‘How to Become a Successful Artist’ Magnus once again gives his data driven insights, this time producing an essential guide for artists wanting to make it on the market. With creativity and skill no longer enough to guarantee success, Magnus reveals the keys to making your portfolio prosperous. First and foremost: artists must learn to market themselves.
In a world where artists that are driven by financial success, as opposed to artistic merit, are still seen as outside the norm, we talk to Magnus about how every artist can find that delicate balance between creativity, output, and business management, and how his newly proposed model of the art market will come to affect artist – gallery relationships.
What inspired you to write a book that empowers artists?
It’s tough to be an artist: 10% of fine art graduates are unemployed. The average female artist in Berlin has an annual income of $10,000. Women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community rarely see the same opportunities as white men. At some point, we accepted that being an artist means being poor. With my book and online class (www.magnusclass.com) I want to change this. I want to give artists the tools to become financially successful. For example, I explain how to use Instagram to sell works, how to write an artist statement, how to price works, how to network and so much more. My mission is to help usher in a more democratic, transparent and inclusive art world so artists can live from their practice.
Do you think that the success of an artist is due more to his abilities to market himself than to his true talent?
Quick answer: Yes! What makes an artist successful is the network they are in. In a longitudinal study which was published in Science Magazine we looked at the careers of 500,000 artists and their exhibition careers to find out what makes an artist financially successful. We discovered that only a small network of NYC art institutions can make an artist successful. If you are not part of this network, it will be very hard. So artists need more than aesthetic skills. Success lies in the network. Or, more simply, who you know matters more than what you do.
What becomes the role of the intermediaries, such as the curator or the gallery owner, in your proposed art market model, where the artist and the audience are placed at the center?
Galleries and curators will always be relevant and will not be replaced. In an environment where buyers are overwhelmed with supply, buyers rely on a filter that selects and curates art. However, the focus will be on brands: branded galleries and branded curators will be the market shakers. We already see it today: Gagosian and Pace are branded galleries. Exhibiting at them will make an artist successful.
Do you think that AI is more successful at curation than humans?
My vision is an art world that embraces technologies. Shows will be curated via swarm intelligence, not through the selection of curators or so called experts with a PhD in art history. We will see a more diverse group of artists finally entering museums. And we will see fewer galleries, but they will be more welcoming and less exclusive. This will attract a new generation of art buyers whose focus is on purpose, rather than profit. They understand that buying art is not just the purchase of an artwork but a philanthropic investment. The questions responsible art buyers will ask are not, “How much can I sell it for in 5 years?”. Instead, they will ask, “How will my purchase support a community and align with my values?”
If you could give only one piece of advice to an artist, what advice would you give?
Change your mindset. Your art is great! Your art should be in the MoMA. The only element that’s missing is better marketing. Look at your artist statement. Most are dull, generic, complex, or all three. Make it simple. My new book gives you the tools on how to write one in 10 minutes. Or look at your Instagram. It’s the number one platform for showcasing your art. In my book, Salman Toor explains how he used Instagram to reach out to Jerry Saltz which landed him a solo show in the Whitney. Your success is far more in your hands than you might believe. My book teaches you all necessary business principles. It’s time to accept that things have changed. Artists are entrepreneurs and a business. So dear artists, stop thinking of yourself solely as creatives. You are a business, too.