Purpose: In recent years, scholars have begun suggesting that marketing can learn a lot from art and art history. This paper aims to build on that work by developing the proposition that successful artists are powerful brands. Design/methodology/approach: Using archival data and biographies, this paper explores the branding acumen of Pablo Picasso. Findings: Picasso maneuvered with consummate skill to assure his position in the art world. By mid-career, he had established his brand so successfully that he had the upper hand over the dealers who represented him, and his work was so sought-after that he could count on selling whatever proportion of it he chose to allow to leave his studio. In order to achieve this level of success, Picasso had to read the culture in which he operated and manage the efforts of a complex system of different intermediaries and stakeholders that was not unlike an organization. Based on an analysis of Picasso's career, the authors assert that in their management of these powerful brands, artists generate a complex, multifaceted public identity that is distinct from a product brand but shares important characteristics with corporate brands, luxury brands and cultural/iconic brands. Originality/value: This research extends prior work by demonstrating that having an implicit understanding of the precepts of branding is not limited to contemporary artists and by connecting the artist to emerging conceptualizations of brands, particularly the nascent literatures on cultural, complex and corporate brands.
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