Birth of an artist: a data study brings new light to the link between early prestige and long-term success in arts

Early access in prestigious galleries and museums matters. A lot. A new study published in Science magazine,“Quantifying Reputation and Success in Art”, shows how debuting at the right places in the art world plays a key role in the future career of young artists.

Co-authored by ISI Fellow Roberta Sinatra (Central European University, Budapest), Albert-László Barabási (Northeastern University, Boston), Samuel P. Fraiberger (Northeastern University, Boston), Magnus Resch (University of St.Gallen, St.Gallen), and Christoph Riedl (Northeastern University, Boston), the study looked at the careers of a half-million artists between 1980 and 2016, across 143 countries. The data, collected by the art app Magnus, included 497,796 exhibitions at 16,002 galleries, 289,677 exhibitions at 7,568 museums, and 127,208 sales at 1,239 auction houses.

The results show how early endorsement by central art institutions is a good predictor of long-term success, offering life-long access to high-prestige venues and reduced dropout rate: almost 60 per cent of artists who debuted in the top institutions remained in the high-prestige network throughout their careers. Instead, only 14 percent of those who started at low-reputation institutions remained active in the art world after 10 years.

“Quantifying Reputation and Success in Art”, Samuel P. Fraiberger, Roberta Sinatra, Magnus Resch, Christoph Riedl, and Albert-László Barabási. Science, 8th November 2018. LINK:

La scienziata Roberta Sinatra: Così ho calcolato l'algoritmo dell'arte” (interview with Roberta Sinatra, Corriere della Sera, in italian)