What comes to mind when you hear the words "art marketing"? Probably a modern idea of Pop art like Andy Warhol or maybe Salvador Dali? Outrageous behavior by artists seeking attention? Or something more mundane like adverts in magazines? Yes all these are true and all in the relatively modern era. So I was amazed by this true story of the first art marketer. He lived over five hundred years ago.
Albrecht Durer was born in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1471. His father was a prominent goldsmith who quickly recognised his son's intelligence. Young Albrecht was sent to school to learn how to read and write. With that achieved he was put into his father's goldsmith business. But Albrecht's talent for drawing was so strong that he was quickly apprenticed to Nuremberg's leading artist.
Durer's fame spread wider as he traveled to Italy and the Netherlands where artists were held in high regard. However opportunists wasted no time in copying Durer's style and producing their own prints. Sound familiar? One enterprising plagiarist even used Durer's monogram. However Durer did not take this lightly.
Durer launched possibly the world's first trademark and copyright lawsuit against the plagiarist. The court ruled that the work could be copied, but that the monogram could not be replicated on copies by anyone other than Durer himself. The monogram was recognised as authentication of the artist's work. Does this sound modern to you? Yet it took place in the early 1500's.
This story of Durer's marketing skills is a side-note in a remarkably prolific career. Durer was a true Renaissance man. His legacy continues to this day especially in Germany where he remains a national hero.
Durer nevertheless knew the importance of printing and the power of celebrity to build his career. By taking advantage of these concepts together with his immense talent his legacy was assured. Today we have the internet, which is a revolution much like the printing press was in Durer's time. What would Durer make of it all?
I am sure he would love the opportunities that modern communication provide.
You can find out more about this extraordinary artist in the BBC documentary below:
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