Pages from Artifacts

What can great art schools teach us about the creative process? Our new book Artifacts has some ideas

Our new book of art world facts sheds light on the links between a sound education and success in the gallery system

What lessons does Artifacts have to teach us about an artistic education? This new book, subtitled Fascinating Facts about Art, Artists, and the Art World, is, indeed, packed with engaging lists, graphs, quotes and other bite-sized findings about artists, art history and the art world. It covers paint brush shapes, art museum acronyms, the shape of Greek vases, as well as art crime, art auction records, lost artworks, manifestos, YBAs, NFTs and much more.

One of the most engaging sections covers art schools. In a section dubbed Classroom Constellations, the book shows how influential teachers educated equally seminal groups of students. Artifacts covers well-known tutors, such as Hilla and and Bernd Becher, who, from 1976 until 1996 taught such notable fine art photographers as Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Germany. It also lists Michael Craig-Martin’s erstwhile students at Goldsmiths University in London, which include Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst, Michael Landy and Julien Opie, among others. It also includes Black Mountain College’s alumni who studied under Joseph Albers, such as Cy Twombly, Ruth Asawa and Robert Rauschenberg.

However, the book also finds room for less functional classrooms, listing famous artists who dropped out of school (Pablo Picasso, Keith Haring, Jasper Johns); applicants who were rejected by art schools (Gerhard Richter, Auguste Rodin, Franciso Goya), as well as those who were expelled (Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollock, Diego Rivera).

Indeed, one of the most impressive lists in the book is of artists who achieved a place in art history without receiving any formal training. This includes confirmed outsiders such as Henry Darger and Adolf Wölfli, as well as blue chip museum favourites, such as Francis Bacon, Mark Rothko, and Vincent Van Gogh, as well as a wide variety of others – Maurizio Cattelan, Stephen Shore, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gordon Parks, Niki de Saint Phalle – all of whom prove that the absence of an MFA is not an insurmountable barrier in the fine arts.


The book quotes two highly successful college dropouts to prove this point. The first, Yoko Ono, has asserted that “You don't have to go to art school to become an artist,” while the second, Jasper Johns once stated, “I think most artists are self-taught.” There’s a lesson in that for all of us. To read these stories in full as well as many, many more, order a copy of Artifacts here.