Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

Gregor Stuart Hunter reviews The Fine Art of Success

A new book asks whether businessmen can learn anything from the study of fine art.

Review: The Fine Art of Success (by Jamie Anderson, Joerg Reckhenrich and Martin Kupp)

Business and the arts make strange bedfellows. Emotionally unbalanced creative types with a tendency to die young, or penniless, do not always make the most consistent of business partners.

And what artist would team up with an executive who holds him or her back for fear of controversy?

On the other hand, perhaps Damien Hirst's record-breaking £111.5 million (Dh659.9m) auction at Sotheby's, only hours after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, might have convinced some businessmen that the potential for profit was clearly there.

But are such sales the excesses of an irrational market, or does the creative world have anything meaningful to offer to the business world? That is the question that The Fine Art of Success seeks to answer.

The idea is a good one, and the authors, who include two business school academics, Jamie Anderson and Martin Kupp, and Joerg Reckhenrich, an artist and consultant, certainly have no shortage of ambition.

Their definition of fine art is broad, and starting with Madonna, the book romps through seven centuries of art history, seeking business insights from figures such as Pablo Picasso, Jeff Koons and Vincent van Gogh.

These are far and away the best parts of the book.

Applying the logic of the entrepreneur to art history, we hear of how Tintoretto carved out a niche among Venice's middle classes with inexpensive artworks because his arch-rival Titian had sewn up the market for fine art with his carefully cultivated access to European royalty.

But at its worst, the book clumsily shoehorns management jargon into a creative process, seemingly without any hint of irony.

"One of the most important drivers of Madonna's success has been her desire to achieve stardom - her strategic vision," we are told. But doesn't every pop star want to be famous?

Nor do the authors seem to find many lessons in the art world about how to hedge against credit risk or embark on an initial public offering. The connections that the authors provide prove to be rather tenuous, too.

The result is a book that leans far too heavily on style over substance. And while that might be fine for Oscar Wilde, most executives might want to seek profits from elsewhere.


Updated: April 6, 2011 04:00 AM



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