Conditions of Success

There is a general supposition that there is something arbitrary about artist success. Stories about genius dying unrecognized, or artists starving in garrets, are common enough. People are reluctant to believe chance does not generally play a major role in the rising fortunes of an artist.

In this, the twenty-first annual Walter Neurath Memorial Lecture, Sir Alan Bowness proposes a contrary position and argues that there is a clear and regular progression towards artistic success. There are in his view, 'conditions of success', which can be exactly described. And success is conditioned, in an almost deterministic way. Artistic fame is predictable.

The text that follows is that of a lecture given on 7 March 1989 at the University of London, with very little alteration. The lecture itself was given without illustration, so that the audience could concentrate on the argument- the matter being speculative and provocative, rather than art historical.

Alan Bowness
Thames & Hudson
Original Language

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