The names above are controversial figures. This distinguished group of men provoke a “debate” to essentially combust on sight. Many art critics and lovers question their artistic importance, but nobody can deny their commercial success. These men have dominated the art landscape for the past few decades. What can we learn from them about what makes a successful career in art? Main image courtesy of @lastlauf.
JR is the quintessential street artist turned art world proper success story. He saw an opportunity during the 2005 French riots to display his artwork and make a point. JR was able to turn that spark of visibility into a viable career.
The lesson: find key moments of visibility. Make sure to make a meaningful point.
The main lesson from Koons is not straight-forward. You might think the lesson is to be good at business. He did work on Wall Street before making it as an artist. But what made it possible for him to shine was not business savvy. His proximity to artists of the time, and the thematic similarity of his work, put him in direct conversation with the New York work of the time. This almost guaranteed eyes on and words about his work.
The lesson: stay in conversation with the work around you. Move elsewhere if there is no interesting art around you (notsaying this lightly; being an artist in NYC is very difficult — but unfortunately a prerequisite for some careers to kick off).
The lesson from Hirst is quite easy, and 10011 will never stop stressing the importance of this point. Collectives vastly increase an artist’s chance of success. Resources and connections can easily be shared between artists without necessarily being zero-sum. As long as the work of the other members is somewhat good and meaningful, collectives will be a net positive for the individual.
The lesson: collectivize, since you cannot do everything yourself. Let your friends do some of the heavy lifting. Do the same for them.
Kaws knows there is no pain in being prolific, and he maintains stellar relationships. Most collectors with a good reputation know him and buy directly. This leaves the auction pieces to other, potentially less knowledgeable, collectors. Kaws garners great auction prices and does well from commercial mass-releases as well.
The lesson: Be prolific in your output and networking, but be discerning about the company you keep.