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Quantifying reputation and success in art

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Science  16 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6416, pp. 825-829
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau7224

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The science of art advancement

Art appreciation is highly subjective. Fraiberger et al. used an extensive record of exhibition and auction data to study and model the career trajectory of individual artists relative to a network of galleries and museums. They observed a lock-in effect among highly reputed artists who started their career in high-prestige institutions and a long struggle for access to elite institutions among those who started their career at the network periphery.

Science, this issue p. 825

Abstract

In areas of human activity where performance is difficult to quantify in an objective fashion, reputation and networks of influence play a key role in determining access to resources and rewards. To understand the role of these factors, we reconstructed the exhibition history of half a million artists, mapping out the coexhibition network that captures the movement of art between institutions. Centrality within this network captured institutional prestige, allowing us to explore the career trajectory of individual artists in terms of access to coveted institutions. Early access to prestigious central institutions offered life-long access to high-prestige venues and reduced dropout rate. By contrast, starting at the network periphery resulted in a high dropout rate, limiting access to central institutions. A Markov model predicts the career trajectory of individual artists and documents the strong path and history dependence of valuation in art.

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