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Artists and their aliases

Botticelli, Le Corbusier, Banksy, …in visual arts as well as in music or literature, some artists prefer to work under their alias, rather than using their own name. Throughout history and to be taken seriously, especially female artists have invented a new character, a new name.

By checking the artists in the Bernice collection, we can also name a few: Brantt, Dupani, Waanzin, Juan Maria Bollé or Dermul probably all have good reasons to use a pseudonym. But why do artists use pseudonyms or aliases?

There are many good reasons why artists use pseudonyms. They want to create a brand, signal a change in style, avoid confusion with others of the same name, or even avoid controversy or prejudice. Some artists may want to keep their identities a secret and protect their privacy. Some have created an alias so unique that no other results pop-up when a google search is entered. Others were just not happy with their birthname. Some artists have changed their names because of a relocation and adapted their name for a new language Mark Rothko was born Marcus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz, for example.

Should you use an alias as an artist?

A pseudonym can be a good opportunity to reinvent yourself. Building a captivating new persona requires communicating a clear sense of your identity as an artist. A new or altered name can be powerful in redefining your narrative and establishing what you stand for.  But building fame and notoriety around a pseudonym commits you to using the artist name forever. It’s hard enough to build name recognition once – think about having to do it twice if you eventually decide to go back to your birth name.

Can you sell art under a pseudonym?

It’s quite common for artists from all mediums to use pseudonyms. However, there can be legal repercussions. Before signing off with a pen name, you should carefully consider why you may use it, how to protect your real identity, and the risks involved.


An interesting read (in English) about aliases: