Startup ArtRank May Negatively Influence Art Market

ArtRank founder Carlos Rivera Photograph: Gideon Ponte

The new site ArtRank seeks to affect how collectors think about buying art, and probably not for the best. For $3,500 per quarter, subscribers are granted access to ranked “buy” and “sell” investment advice based on “qualitatively-weighted metrics including web presence (verified social media counts, inbound links), studio capacity and output, market maker contracts and acquisitions, major collector and museum support, gallery representation and auction results,” as the company’s website explains.

According to an extensive write-up of the service in the Guardian, the man behind the website (which many initially assumed was a parody) is 26-year-old former Hollywood gallerist Carlos Rivera. Rivera insists he is running a legitimate, data-driven advisory service, that he hopes will “add a level of transparency” to a market that’s admittedly tough to make informed decisions about. He claims the site is an effort to quantify and publicize what those in the know do all day anyway—which, according to him, is talk about money. “What do you think a gallerist does?,” Rivera asks. “I should know—I’ve run a gallery. There’s nothing to do except gossip.” It probably comes as no surprise that controversial art flipper Stefan Simchowitz was so enamored of the startup that he tried to buy a stake in it.

Needless to say, many young artists being “ranked” so early in their careers find it completely terrifying. After all, it takes years for an artist to establish themselves and their market, and only moments for it all to come crashing down.

To Rivera’s credit, he understands that the art market cannot sustain the massive growth it has recently experienced without bringing in new blood. And the best place to seek that new blood is the emerging class of uber-wealthy tech entrepreneurs, who want to see data before throwing down any cash. Gone are the days of buying a piece of art because you loved it or because you wanted to support the vision and career of the artist. In the same Guardian article, collector Mera Rubell laments that it’s “become some kind of a financial sport…it’s painful to see.”

Despite any ability ArtRank has to positively influence the art world by piquing the interest of new collectors, the inherent problem with it is that it sets its own predictions up to come true. After all, once you advise people (who may know very little about art outside of what you’re telling them) to “sell” or “liquidate,” what do you think they’re going to go do? Even if said predictions are based on numbers, the future is never set in stone, especially when it comes to the careers of artists who are just out of school.




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