The Disjunction Between Fame & Creativity In Art

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Our social structural theory of fame departs from prior work on fame which argues that fame is driven by creativity. (Banerjee & Ingram)

§.00 Fame and creativity have a instinctive association. It is thought that, for artists, as a general rule, the more creative they are, the more famous they will be. Evidence, however, does not bare this preconception out.

§.01 In the lengthy, richly detailed 2018 paper, Fame as an Illusion of Creativity: Evidence from the Pioneers of Abstract Art, researchers Banerjee & Ingram delve into the correlation between fame (large scale public attention) and creativity by studying the social networks of 90 artists from Europe and the US during the 20th Century (1910-1925) whose work radically departed from the norms of representational art of the time. The researchers used two measures for creativity: an expert measure of an artist’s creativity and a computational measure of an artist’s novelty. They found that the social networks of the artists in question played a significantly larger role than their creativity (as measured by the two metrics listed above) and no statistical linkage for positive correlation between creativity and fame.

Surprisingly given previous theory, we do not find statistical support for a positive
relationship between an artist’s creativity and fame. (Banerjee & Ingram, Fame as an Illusion of Creativity, p.6)

§.02 Rather than creativity, Banerjee and Ingram find that identity is the crucial determining factor for domain-transcendent success.

-our evidence reveals identity as the link between peer network and fame. (Banerjee & Ingram, p. 6)

§.03 Identity here being, not simply one’s self-conception, but one’s public image (whether authentic or inauthentic).

In effect, the outsider identity of such [aforementioned artistic] producers might contribute to others’ perception of them as rebels who are authentically creative. Audiences may reject or embrace such a challenging creative identity, but it is more likely to garner attention. (Banerjee & Ingram, p. 11)

§.04 In summation, networking and identity (branding) are more important to fame in the arts than creativity. In conclusion, it is important to note that personal fame is extremely tenuous; consider how many past social media stars are now completely forgotten. This need not be so for an artist’s works, which can endure long after their creator has passed into eternal slumber. For this reason, it is unwise for any serious artist whose goal is the upward development of his or her craft to chiefly prize fame, for in doing so, one will have, of necessity, deprioritized one’s art—when the muse is eschewed for the socialite, the fires of creation abate.


Sources

  1. Annaliese Griffin. (2019) For Artists Fame Is More About Social Networks Than Creativity. Quartzy. Available at: https://qz.com/quartzy/1564122/for-artists-fame-is-more-about-social-networks-than-creativity/
  2. Casey Lesser. (2019) Artists Become Famous Through Their Friends, Not The Originality of their Work. Artsy. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-artists-famous-friends-originality-work
  3. Mark B. Turner & Gilles Fauconnier. (1999) A Mechanism of Creativity. Poetics Today, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 397-418, Fall 1999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1416435
  4. Mitali Banerjee & Paul Ingram. (2018) Fame as an Illusion of Creativity: Evidence from the Pioneers of Abstract Art. HEC Paris Research Paper No. SPE-2018-1305; Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 18-74. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3258318 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3258318
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