Which artists are trending now? Who will be the next rising stars in the art market? These are some of the questions that auction houses, art dealers, collectors, or even investors are constantly searching for an answer.
Phillips, a leading auction house which has sold numerous record-setting artworks by up-and-coming artists around the world, reveals its secret weapon to track emerging market trends—Articker, a searchable technology platform that aggregates open-source data on artists and artworks.
Articker is also offered as a service to Phillips’ clients, who will have access to selected features of the platform through Phillips’ specialists, including details about each of the 150,000 artists listed on the platform. It gives a ranking, based on headline count, article count, solo exhibitions, and so on.
Founded in 2014 by a father-and-son duo Tomasz and Konrad Imielinski, Articker tracks the global art publishing world, with a database comprising more than 16,000 online publications and accumulating information from 50,000 other editorial sources, including blogs, university websites, gallery websites, museum websites, aggregated in real-time. The platform also weights media coverage. For example, an article on The New York Times is given more prominence than a regional college newspaper.
Started its partnership with Phillips since 2019, Articker is able to precisely offer insight into trending stories both globally and locally, offering a unique real-time view on artists ranging from blue-chip masters like Pablo Picasso to those currently graduating from MFA programs.
The platform currently relies on publications in English and other European languages. The auction house is now actively building Articker for Asian-based languages in hopes to expand the database with coverage in Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean to cater to the needs of Asian collectors.
Users can research on artists' media presence by inputting artist names or filter by various categories available. For example, when users filter information by ‘Auction Houses’, the platform will show recent media coverage or sources quoting the four leading auction houses; by ‘Collectors’, it will list out well-known collectors around the world, as well as recent interviews or articles with their names mentioned. Other options include ‘Galleries’, ‘Schools’ and ‘Exhibitions’ etc.
The platform will analyse artists’ media presence in a certain period from the past three months to two years, and rank artists accordingly. For instance, Christo, a Bulgarian artist known for his monumental art around the world and died at 84 in May, had the strongest media presence on the platform. Yet, Amoako Boafo, a 35-year-old Ghana-born artist, saw the steepest rate of increase in his media presence which rose 121.21% over the past three months.
How can the auction house gain insights from the data and make good use of them? According to Jean-Paul Engelen, Phillips’s Deputy Chairman and Worldwide Co-Head of 20th Century and Contemporary art, Articker has helped him and other specialists at the auction house unearth trends and find emerging names ahead of competitors.
Amoako Boafo's The Lemon Bathing Suit was sold for £675,000 at Phillips London this February
One example is The Lemon Bathing Suit, which marked Boafo’s debut at auction in 2019, sold at Phillips for £675,000 more than twenty times its low estimate. Articker data on Boafo indicates that the artists’ media presence has increased by 2406% over the past 18 months. Tomasz Imielinski pointed out that most of the media coverage focused on Boafo’s fashion collaboration with Dior Men rather than his performance at auction or in gallery shows.
Tschabalala Self’s Lilith fetched £125,000 at Phillips London in March 2019
Another example is Tschabalala Self, an African-American female artist known for her large-scale figurative paintings. Articker data shows that Self’s media presence has increased by 174% in the past 18 months. In March 2019, her painting Lilith fetched £125,000 at Phillips London, surpassing the estimate of £40,000-60,000.
Similarly, French artist Julie Curtiss’ media presence has increased by more than 775% in the past 24 months, and is often associated with her experience working at the KAWS factory. Her painting Princess sold for more than 15 times its low estimate of US$6,000 for US$106,250 at Phillips in 2019.
Julie Curtiss’ Princess sold for US$106,250 at Phillips in 2019
Currently, there will be no direct access to the platform for Phillips' clients. There will be a version of Articker integrated into the Phillips’ artist pages on Phillips.com, set to complete by September 2020. There is also a public-facing bulletin that shares daily highlight insights on Phillips.com.
The auction house is looking into developing a personalised newsletter or bulletin which will be driven by spikes of media interest in artists who belong to a client’s list. The intention is to provide relevant information, informing clients about first headlines, solo shows, personal records, all in relation to their interests.
Recent media coverage related to the artist will appear on the artist’s page on Phillips' website
The public-facing bulletin that shares daily highlight insights on Phillips.com
Articker serves as a complementary tool for collectors by providing insights in a different perspective besides market prices and sale figures covered in a traditional database.
Articker has proven to be such a useful tool for Phillips to stay ahead of its competitors. So why did the auction house share its secret publicly? In fact, Phillips and Articker have an exclusive partnership so other auction houses have no access to the platform. Moreover, those who would like to enjoy the service must first become a Phillips’ client to get access to it. The move reinforces Phillips’ role as a leader in information and data on art beyond the market.
Increasing the market’s visibility is the direction that the art market should head towards. Auction houses can take reference from Phillips' innovation and offer more open-source data to transform the art business into a more transparent and connected one.