Why Narcissists Make Better Art

Why Narcissists Make Better Art

According to a 2016 study from Florida State University, there is a direct correlation between narcissism and art market performance.

"The artworks of more narcissistic artists have higher market prices, higher estimates from auction houses, and higher out-performance compared to the art market index. In supporter of this narcissistic view of the market performance of art works,we find that the higher recognition by art experts lead to more narcissistic artists hing a great number of solo and group exhibitions, more museum and gallery holdings, and higher art history rankings."

Interestingly, the study adds...

"More narcissistic artists also tend to make larger paintings and date their works more."

At the moment, I'm experiencing a massive existential crisis of identity & purpose. In many ways, the charge of "narcissism" is at the heart of this crisis.

Have you ever been accused of being a narcissist - because you wanted to share your art?

I have. I've been called a narcissist because I'm stimulated by ideas & conversation, and for my intrinsic desire to to perform and spread joy.

And though it doesn't happen much, or often, it's always so painful when it does. Mostly because I'm dealing with a kaleidoscope of moderately related traumas, so each little buckling can feel extreme. But this charge has actually effected me to the point of becoming more of a hermit, more of a woodshedder, more of the lone spiritualist on the side of the mountain.

Because the last thing somebody who is trying to spread joy wants to do is be a nuisance to others. In many ways, removing myself from society has been an attempt to remove the oppression of my "narcissism" from the world.

Of course, one or two insults should never change your world. But if this is the pervading message you get from your family, for example, and you're a young budding artist... This could be a fatal blow to your passions. It feels that way to me.

Luckily, I'm still alive. There's time for me to turn things around.

When I read this study, it was an epiphany. Maybe in some respect I am a "narcissist." But maybe - just maybe - that's a good thing.

What's wrong with being proud of your work?

What's wrong with believing you're the best?

Narcissism seems to be the critical component to the success of any artist - this narcissistic ability to persist, to perform, to be admired.

The article definitely states, "...narcissism is positively associated with the market performance of artworks."


So how is narcissism quantified in this study? There's a variety of factors, but here were the main ones listed:

The artist's internal drive to perform in front of an audience.

The artist's tendency to date their works.

Signature size on artworks. ("...the area-per-letter is correlated highly with the score on the NPI-16 index...")

The size of the art item.

Engaging in attention seeking behaviors to gain the admiration of the public.

The percentage of self-portraits among all of an artist's artworks.

The frequency of first-person pronouns.

This shows that more narcissistic artists have higher rates of returns for their artworks compared to less narcissistic artists. It is more profitable to invest in the artworks of more narcissistic artists.
What's more, the effects of admiration and recognition are long lasting, even continuing for centuries, because of permanent collections in museum holdings.

The study ends with the mind-shattering (yet somehow painfully obvious) conclusions: "Our results show that there is a positive and significant relationship between an artists's narcissism and the artists's creative and productivity." 

The best conclusion is to embrace any charges of narcissism, if you're an artist.

This advice DOES NOT apply to all industries (see: any other scientific study on the subject.) But for an artist, the ability to believe in yourself and in the ideals of beauty in a violent & indifferent physical world, is the one thing that may accelerate your freedom & independence.

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