So I've done quite a bit of "research" into the best fine art schools around. Eventually I decided that I should probably compile a list and share my findings. The primary criteria of assessment for me was simply the frequency of college alumni in "major" contemporary galleries, exhibitions and collections (eg. Gagosian, Zwirner, Hauser and Wirth, Gladstone etc) i.e imo the best art schools were those that produced the greatest proportion or frequency of "successful" artists. I don't claim anything here to be authoritative as I recognize that there may be contention about who is a "successful" artist and what is a "major" gallery/ exhibition, however, I do think that anyone, making even the most half-hearted attempt to follow the international art scene, will agree with my findings. I should also mention that graduate degrees hold much more sway in an artist's career than their undergrad.
Breaking news, most of the schools that seem to produce the highest rates of gallery placement (both in the US and Europe) aren't art schools to begin with. Really it's no surprise when you take into consideration the fact that the contemporary art world continues to push for intellectually rigorous work.
School of The Art Institute of Chicago
School of The Museum of Fine Arts
SAIC and SMFA pop-up frequently as undergrad schools with a few doing their MFA's there while Art Center alumni are fairly popular in LA galleries but don't seem to travel much.
The Light Weight Powerhouse
Cooper students seem to end up everywhere from provincial galleries in small town USA to the infamous, high profile collection of Charles Saatchi. This is even more remarkable considering Cooper only offers an undergraduate program in fine arts which, furthermore, only produces around 60 graduates.
Alot of artists also attend the
Whitney Independent Study Program
and The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture
at some point in time after their Bachelor's. They're not really degree programs per se but whatever they're providing seems to make a difference.
As disappointment implies, these schools had a lot less showing than I'd expected. RISD was still on the table but only really seemed to be performing with undergrads. It was less than what I expected from a school that is often touted as "the best art school in the USA". SVA on the other hand managed to put out a fair number of photographers but not much else. MICA and Pratt alum were virtually nonexistent.
If you have strong intentions of becoming a professional artist, you should probably skip the US altogether and head straight to Europe where the Brits and the Germans run the game. It's well known that London and Berlin have long surpassed NYC and LA as the international art capitals. A cursory examination will quickly reveal that while there is an abundance of European artists in US galleries there is a dearth of American artists in their European counterparts.
The Major British Players:
Chelsea College of Art
The Slade School of Art
Royal College of Art
Many popular artists however do not come from any of these schools mentioned. These schools were simply the ones with the higher frequencies of placement.