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Holding a Ph.D. in economics and a Professor of art management at Yale University, it’s safe to consider art-market economist Magnus Resch an expert in the field. In 2013, Resch utilized his expertise in his first book Management of Art Galleries to help emerging art spaces succeed in the cut-throat world of art sales. And this week, Resch is debuting another book in collaboration with publishing label Phaidon, How to Become a Successful Artist.
Knowing the art world is a difficult scene in which to succeed, Resch has compiled information from his own experience and gathered data from the careers of more than 500,000 artists for this two-step guide to unfolding the secrets of a career path that has remained unnecessarily elite. The publication offers a better understanding of how the market works, alongside advice from prominent, successful art world names (like Hans Ulrich Obrist, Laurie Simmons, Marilyn Minter, Tyler Mitchell, Rashid Johnson, Kenny Scharf,and Raymond Pettibon), answering questions from, “How do I compose an artist statement?” to, “How do I secure gallery representation?”
Here, Resch talks with Whitewall about his newest book and what brought him to share this knowledge.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for How to Become a Successful Artist?
MAGNUS RESCH: It has never been tougher to be an artist: Only a few artists are making enough money to afford a living from their practice. Art schools have done a poor job in preparing students for the market. Why aren't art schools offer courses on how to use Instagram to sell art, how to write an artist statement or how to price your artworks? My book How to Become a Successful Artist wants to fill this gap.
WW: What kind of research and process went into collecting all of the information featured in the publication?
MR: The book is based on a triangle of research. First, my research study which I published in Science Magazine, the leading academic journal in the world. Together with the world's foremost data scientist Lazslo Barabsi, we looked at 500,000 artists and their careers. It took us three years. Second, interviews with leading art world people. And my own experience of 15 years in the art market as tech founder, gallerist and university professor.
WW: The book includes advice from a range of major figures in the art world. What was some of the advice that stuck out for you?
MR: Here are some that I just saw when flipping through the book:
Jeffrey Deitch: I am almost seventy years old, much older than many of the new artists, so I now rely on my network of young art professionals to introduce these people into my network.
Marilyn Minter: I have been a teacher throughout the majority of my career and do some commissions. You need to have additional income if you want to have the freedom to create what you want to make.
Peter Halley: Successful artists need to come up with a business plan that reflects the nature of their work, ethics, goals, etc.
Another great one is Katherine Bernhard's: Stop drinking early.
WW: Do you think it’s still possible to break down some of the barriers faced by young and emerging artists with information like what is featured in this book?
MR: Yes! To get there my book follows a two-step approach: First, I explain how the art market works and unveil hidden networks that define success. Then I present practical advice on how to change the status quo using case studies and interviews with over 50 art industry experts, such as Hans Ulrich Obrist, Laurie Simmons, Julian Schnabel, Tyler Mitchell, Raymond Pettibon, Lisa Schiff and many more. I don't give a guarantee for success, but students who have taken my online class (magnusclass.com) have sold more works—without having sold their soul.
WW: How have you noticed the age of social media changing the criteria of what it takes to become successful as an artist?
MR: Instagram is the most important tool to expand your network, build a community and sell your works. Unfortunately, artists often don't leverage its full power. My book gives clear advice on how to use Instagram to position your brand, find gallery representation or connect with collectors. For example, I talk to artists who became famous on Instagram. They explain to my readers how often to post, what to post, when to post and what strategies they applied to get followers.
WW: Does this new book interact with your previous publication, Management of Art Galleries?
MR: Management of Art Galleries, now in its third edition, was translated into other languages and has helped thousands of gallerists to run their gallery. My new book is the next logical step for me: How can I help artists to run their practice more successfully? I choose the same publisher and graphic designer. I think a lot of people will end up buying both books. Everyone interested in starting a career in the art market will eventually come across them.
WW: What made you interested in pursuing a career in the art world from a business and economics route?
MR: For the past 15 years I focused on the intersection of art/technology/money: I am teaching art management at Yale University, my entrepreneurial activities are in the art market, my Ph.D. is on art economics. And when I was 20, I ran a gallery. My goal with all these activities is the same: I want to create a more open, equal, and transparent art market so more people buy art.