Major Scandals, Auction Records Drive Interest in artnet’s Top 300 Artist Searches for October

Controversial photographers top the list.

KAWS. Photo: Clint Spaulding/

Internet searches can reveal much about the climate of the contemporary art world. Every month artnet users provide a glimpse of the prevailing trends and inclinations of the broader art market with their clicks. In October, it turns out, the top 300 searches were driven by scandal, museum exhibitions, and auction records.

Last month the top spot was taken by British photographer David Hamilton, who is known for his controversial depictions of nude adolescent girls, amid rape allegations. The French television presenter Flavie Flament accused the 84-year-old of raping her when she posed for him at the age of 13, allegations which Hamilton denies.

Second place was occupied by Jock Sturges, another controversial photographer known for portraying nude young women. Street art stalwart Banksy was the third most popular artist with artnet users, while Andy Warhol came in fourth. After five consecutive months in the top 10, Diane Arbus once again remained popular, coming in fifth during October.

Meanwhile the ever-popular Pablo Picasso also lingered in the top ten, this time in sixth place, dropping one spot despite a great two-person exhibition with Alexander Calder at Almine Rech’s newly opened New York gallery.

Agnes Martin, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 7, 2016–January 11, 2017. Photo: David Heald

Agnes Martin, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 7, 2016–January 11, 2017. Photo: David Heald.

Photographer Nan Goldin maintained her popularity thanks to an ongoing show at MoMA. A survey exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth propelled KAWS 25 places, into the eighth spot, while blue-chip favorite Roy Lichtenstein rounded out the top 10.

Lower down the list things get more interesting. After finding himself near the bottom of the list for months—and not featuring at all in September—Romanian figurative painter Adrien Ghenie jumped to 45th place thanks to a stellar performance at Christie’s in London, where his painting Nickelodeon (2008) sold for a record £6.2 million ($7.7 million).

Artist Grayson Perry’s participation in a UK short film on gender and identity prompted users to look up his work, which helped him climb 50 places on our list, from 114th to 64th.

Agnes Martin’s retrospective at New York’s Guggenheim helped her jump from 224th to 83rd place between September and October.

Falling sharply was photographer and filmmaker Larry Clark, who dropped 103 places after the hype surrounding his retrospective at talent agency UTA’s new Los Angeles art space dried up.

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