Art history and me

Marine Tanguy, CEO at MTArt Agency talks to the Association for Art History about what art history means to her and why she feels it is imperative that it should be taught in schools. |

Marine Tanguy has been working in the art world for the past eight years.  An advocate for artists since a young age, Marine managed her first gallery at age 21, opened her first art gallery in Los Angeles at age 23 and finally created her current business, MTArt Agency, to promote the artists she believed in across the globe. MTArt is the first artist agency in the world, specialising in talent management: building, growing and accelerating careers while financing the studio costs of its artists.

Please tell us a bit about yourself, and how you discovered art history

I am born on a small island called Ile de Ré and I grew up there for 17 years. There wasn’t much art where I grew up, but there was many opportunities to be bored! This may sound negative but actually it meant I was a very imaginative kid and one of the reasons I believe I am so creative today. After two years studying philosophy as part of the Khagne/ Classes Preparatoires system in France, I moved to London when I was 19 years old and obtained my very first internship at the BBC on The Culture Show. I loved it! I quickly realised that culture and the arts was what I wanted to be involved in. I felt I could be creative in the same I had been when I was younger; art allowed me to see and feel the world differently.

When applying for university, I decided to study art history. I felt that the subject would help me gain a wider understanding of the complexities of our history through art, and in doing so enhance my relationship with art even further.

What is it about the subject that excites you?

Art is life for me. It is like learning a language that makes you see the world so much more powerfully. The great artists use their talent to inspire us, as well as make us feel and think more strongly. It sometimes feels strange for me to discuss it as ‘a subject’ as I would hope for everyone to engage with it. Art history is the combination of two very important understandings – who we are across time, and how we express it visually.

I studied art history at university but left after two years. I felt that my understanding of the subject was very different to the structure of the course I was exposed to. I wanted to learn about practicing artists and learn from our past to impact the art history of the future. Art is experimental, creative, and full of mistakes, but we didn’t study these mistakes. Overall I felt that the course was structured in a way that wasn’t representative of my engagement with art.

As the CEO of an artist agency, why do you think art history is so important within the creative practice?

It’s incredibly important, and not just through understanding the great artists of the past, but by understanding that through supporting up and coming visual artists, you are supporting the history of art of the future.

This comes with responsibilities. It is a very important subject and should represent all of us. Currently, art history is defined by too few people. As an artist agency, we not only select artists according to their artistic value, but also their content value (through subjects such as sustainability, gender issues etc) and we hope that the voices we help to establish will engage and represent as many people as possible. It is also important for us that their work is seen everywhere, which is why we conduct so many public art projects (currently, we recently had 72 photographs outside of London Bridge Station in a partnership with Team London Bridge and our artist Jennifer Abessira – building a powerful visual narrative that tells the story of our experience of the city and the recent terrorist events).

I wish for my artists to be knowledgeable about art history, not to reproduce it, but instead to help rethink it.

Do you think art history should be taught in schools from a young age? 

Absolutely! Thinking creatively is so important. Artificial intelligence is capable of logic but requires help to feel, develop empathy and challenge creatively. That’s what we should teach our kids, to challenge, feel the world and build their creative identities within it. Children should be inspired by artists of the past. My mother is a primary teacher in Ile de Re and I regularly teach in her class. I love seeing their puzzled, questioning or even dreaming faces when we discuss art history content and artists.

Google gives you an answer within a couple of seconds, art makes you ask questions and see the world differently. These two skills are absolutely key to our next generation of kids.

What’s next for MtArt/What have you got coming up?

So much! We are in a very special time as it’s completely taking off. I am in talk with a few USA funds to make us the very first artist agency in the world of reference. Public art is also completely scaling up with a whole series of permanent artworks activating our cities in striking ways, constantly using the art of our artists to inspire bigger and bigger demographics. My Ted x talk on this subject is out soon.

We have a show upcoming in New York in January and February called ‘A Voice of a Generation’ after the very first text we wrote when we started MTArt:


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