The process starts with one person believing there is something so special or unique about a work, that it deserves to be well-known. This one person then spreads news of its ‘greatness,’ and the cycle begins. From that few people in the beginning, comes a following of admirers that now also notice its merit. In reality however, most of these people probably only agree that it is significant because others around them do. In fact, the piece itself doesn’t actually have to be that exceptional.
Take the Mona Lisa for an example. I bet that out of the approximately 22,000 daily visitors, only about a fourth or less truthfully go to appreciate its wonder and beauty. The rest are likely only there because it is famous.
Also worth mentioning: Two months ago on March 17th, Dutch YouTubers lifehunterstv bought a £7 IKEA print and were able to pass it off as fine art. They had it put up in a prominent art museum and asked around 20 people to value the (supposedly genuine) painting. Not a single critic suspected it was a fraud and in fact, one even went so far as to appraise it for more than $2.7 million!
This goes to show that a work’s fame isn’t solely decided by how ‘brilliant’ or ‘modern’ the piece is, but instead is impacted by a multitude of factors such as social influence, chance, and even where it is displayed.
★ Ultimately, while yes, the creation must first reflect the artist’s passion and skill in order to be noticed, it is (arguably) fair to say that the success of an artwork is at least half determined by the people that view it.