Is attending art school necessary for a thriving, successful career?

By admin / August 2, 2021

If you aspire to make a reliable living as an artist, you might wonder whether a qualification from art school would be the key that unlocks what you would deem the most exciting career opportunities.

It’s not hard to see, just from the huge number of jaw-dropping canvases lining art galleries and exhibitions, that there’s plenty of competition out there. However, could giving art tuition a miss actually help you to creatively think outside the box and, as a result, produce art that leaves a better lasting impression?

Surely it’s all about the talent, right?

Yes, it evidently could be. Several artists of international renown – like Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat – never received formal training. Some commentators in the art world even believe that an art education could hold many artists back.

As quoted in a Medium article, art journalist Deborah Solomon has expressed her view that the openings of more art schools have led to a “decline in the quality of art”.

Art historian Barbara Rose has concurred, deploring that educated artists’ art occasionally looks “like homework”. Many people could think it telling that certain pieces produced by self-taught artists have fetched prices of several hundred thousands of dollars when auctioned.

In theory, forgoing an educational art course could encourage you to be more unbounded in your creativity and so create the kind of art more capable of attracting attention from art curators and collectors.

However, what does expert opinion say about art school?

Interestingly, despite the supposed benefits of the self-taught approach, there also remains evidence that enrolling at an art school could catalyse your art career. There’s a chance of this happening even before you have completed the course, due to the valuable contacts you would be able to make while still studying.

During your studies, you could find yourself being introduced to local gallery owners, curators and critics. Consequently, you could more easily get your work noticed by art professionals at an early stage – such as at the likes of student exhibitions and open studio promotions.

“There’s a ton of evidence that prospects for graduates from art schools today are better than they’ve ever been before in terms of income, their ability to survive economic turbulence and their preparedness for the job market of the 2020s,” Columbia University professor Jennifer Lena says in a Forbes article.

So, returning to the original question…

While spending time at art school could certainly give your art career a leg up, you also can’t expect to cruise just because you have an art degree. Getting your art into exhibitions and into the hands of collectors – especially prestigious ones – could actually get you further than an art education alone.

For example, you could expect your profile to rise if your art was picked up by a collector like Charles Saatchi and displayed on his website – where, in the meantime, you could read some of his articles and columns for further insight into where you should be going with your artistic practice.

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