ArtRank - Confident? Concerned?

June 29, 2014

There is a lot of talk in recent months about the new website ArtRank and how it affects collectors thinking about buying art. It seems that most art market experts think the controversial website impacts negatively on the art world with its "buy" or "sell" judgments. By making "buy" or "sell" and even “liquidate” judgments on contemporary artists same as stockbrokers rate shares, the website founder Carlos Rivera apparently knows what buttons to push.

WIDEWALLS reported about Artrank earlier this year CLICK HERE!

Jean Michel Basquiat
Jean Michel Basquiat

Who is Artrank?

When ArtRank appeared earlier this year it was originally called Firsty, it became despised by gallery owners. Soon the critics began accusing ArtRank of treating art like a commodity, which sounds a bit naïve. Of course it’s commodity. Art pieces are marketable items that satisfy wants and needs and currently there is a huge demand for many. If used only as a guide, there should be no harm in consulting the ArtRank. Shouldn't, wouldn't, couldn't…

Art Show
Art Trade Show

What is it about?

According to the 26-year-old former Hollywood gallerist Rivera, the ArtRank service uses complex algorithms developed for investment banking. For $3,500 a quarter, ArtRank's subscribers get “buy”, “sell” or “liquidate” investment advice on the prime emerging artists based on information such as auction results, web presence, major collector and museum support, and gallery representation. In other words, Rivera’s magic formula consists of four main components: market saturation, social media presence (Instagram and Twitter), market support and auction performance. The main source of profit is selling early access to updated tables to collectors whose sport is finding an artist before he/she sells for a million dollars or to emerging class of wealthy entrepreneurs who want to see data before throwing down any cash.

Francis Bacon Three Studies of Lucian Freud
Francis Bacon Three Studies of Lucian Freud

For now, the website only tracks living, emerging artists, to take advantage of the rapid circulation of information on the Internet. But it is precisely where the shoe pinches. It's one thing to buy and sell huge holdings in the likes of great masters and quite another to gamble with those whose careers have just begun. Art reputations take years to develop and moments to ruin, critics say. One would assume that those artists who are in the "buy now" category mostly give the website the okay since it gets them exposure, but on the contrary, they find ArtRank "terrifying".

The Discusion

According to Rivera, he just wants to add a level of transparency to the hazy art market. He argues he’s running a legitimate, data-driven advisory service that quantifies and publicizes what those in the know do every day. We couldn’t agree more about the haziness but this data-driven ranking concept somehow doesn’t hold water when dealing with art. Mentioned “ranking” is supposed to be defined by gallerists, art experts, professional public and finally buyers, and not numbers. There is a widespread belief that nowadays there are increasingly less art lovers and more art buyers, many of whom know very little about art outside of what you’re telling them and if you tell them to “liquidate” one's career may be in stake. Moreover, this data-based concept should inspire confidence, while, in fact, it raises concern about possible manipulation. Nothing is carved in stone, but this should be perhaps the best point of view regarding the whole ArtRank drama. Numbers change, categories change. The true art lovers and art connoisseurs do not buy art relaying on math. They are driven by something more than numbers keeping the art market hot.

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