28 Aug 2010

Visual Artists: Would You Change Your Name?

Posted by Moshe Mikanovsky

Actors have Stage Names. Authors – Pen Names. Even wrestlers are known by different name, a Ring Name. So what is it about visual artists that does not make us change our names for the trade?

Historically, throughout the Renaissance period in Italy, some artists had nicknames that stuck. Like Donatello, who was born Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, Tintoretto whose real name was Jacopo Comin, or Boticelli – Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi. Another culture that produced art names is in the East Asian countries, where Chinese, Japanese and Korean artists receives names based on their level of proficiency and experience in their trade. In the modern ages though, visual artists are not known to change their names in order to promote their brand.

Some of the reasons artists might want to change their name for could be:

  • Uniqueness– My art teacher and mentor, artists Gary Smith, told me once: “I have a very bad name for an artist. But you have a great name”. Although a talented artist with unique style and an amazing art coach, Gary was worried that his name doesn’t help him to become unique, above the rest. But with a name like Mikanovsky, he proclaimed that at least that will help me stands from the rest…
  • Privacy – Some artists prefers to keep their private life separate from their public life. Especially nowadays, with the Internet and data overflow, some people are anxious about putting their name out there (for different reasons that we could discuss in another post), so they might prefer using another name or a company name.
  • Different styles – one of the challenges for prolific artists that developed more than one style or artwork is to keep their artistic portfolio consistent. Authors who write in different styles usually adopt a pen name for the different style. That could be a solution for some artists, but it might create a huge marketing headache.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – as a topic close to my heart, this was the reason that triggered me to think, and write, about this topic. One of the things that artists and marketers learn about SEO is that the keyword that mostly used to find them is their name. Imagine a contemporary artist named “Picasso”. Would we ever find him on the first or second page of Google? And what about my mentor Gary Smith? The combination of a common surname and given name brings many results that are not relevant for the search we are looking for. And another example, my friend, artist Myriam Levi. You might notice the spelling of her name, Myriam with “y”. Everyone who looks for her usually would search for Miriam Levi (with “i”), and therefore can’t find her. Would it better if she changes her name’s spelling?

There are other reasons why performance artists change their names, like ethnicity, ease of use, relevance to the image they portray, ease of remembrance, family connections, and guild and association rules (read more about it in Wikipedia), but these seemed to me a bit less relevant for visual artists. But I am sure there could be other reasons that artists might want to change their names, or different ways to look at it.

So I’ll leave this open to you – the visual artist – would YOU change your name?

Cheers
Moshe

This article was published on FineArtViews blog on August 26, 2010

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