How Art History Needs to Change in 2019

The underlying issue with history of any kind is that the subject itself is subjective. A saying commonly attributed to Winston Churchill is that “history is written by the victors.” In many ways, art history is no different in this regard.

 

According to a study conducted by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, staff hired by art museums tend to favor predominantly non African-American and Hispanics. A rough total of 7 percent of workers are made up of said minorities. This shows a distressing lack of cultural and racial diversity in regards to the staff employed in art museums.

 

This is an important factor as art history refers to the collective artistic culture of humanity throughout the ages. Every person has their own interpretation of how art is viewed, and this should be reflected by the staff hired to educate those who come to witness history.

 

Art is by its very nature a constantly changing structure where what’s vogue at the time is constantly in a state of flux. However, due to the perception of the kind of art that is considered popular or correct at the time, many artists find themselves marginalized. Those artists who pursue different styles, or create pieces particularly poking at the edges of civilized sensitivity, find themselves relegated to the wayside of history. More must be done to include such artists with the purpose of broadening horizons to better reflect the times of today.

 

That is not to say there has been no progress on that front. The museum located in Tate, Britain have recently opened a tour called “A Queer Walk Through British Art.” This tour includes pieces that highlight an alternate view of human sexuality throughout history. One such example is the “Ena and Betty”, a painting created in 1901 by John Singer Sargent that subtly highlights close female companionship of a possibly homoerotic kind.

 

This, of course, is open to interpretation as are many pieces in that same gallery. As noted before, everyone has a different view on art, and that is something that should be embraced. It is through these differing viewpoints that complex histories may be unraveled and new discoveries may be made. What one person sees as a simple, but tasteful painting, another may find hidden meaning underneath the canvas.

How Blockchain is Changing the Art Industry

Blockchain technology is more prevalent than much of the public realizes. It is still in its infancy, but many companies are employing their own private blockchains. Public blockchains, like Bitcoin and Ethereum are what most people are familiar with. Their advantages extend much further than the internal efficiencies promised by private blockchains. The art world is turning to blockchain to solve issues plaguing the industry. Some of the problems facing the art industry include:

  • antiquated property transactions
  • illegal activities
  • inefficiency in the auction process

 

Art is an international business. Buying and selling, as well as auction practices, need a blockchain based common ledger. It would serve as a neutral medium for international transactions to take place. But, blockchain technology is more than just a digital ledger. It enables elaborate new methods for data management. Blockchain improves value chains because of its distributed and transparent approach to record keeping. In addition to revolutionizing data management practices, blockchain shows a resounding proficiency to thwart both fraud and tax evasion.

 

Transparency is critical to the value chain of art ownership. Blockchain technology certifies transactions with tokens. Tokens transfer from buyers to seller at purchase. They transfer each time a piece is sold. Blockchain tracks the ownership record. This transparent and distributed ledger enables anyone to view the entire history of a piece. Fraud is minimized because any potential buyer can simply examine the owner’s claim via their crypto wallet.

 

Blockchain expects to impact all areas of the art industry. It directly affects:

  • artists
  • collectors
  • investors
  • auction houses

 

Artists, especially visual ones, believe in blockchain security. Uniquely coded virtual pieces represent a growing trend. These unique strings of code serve to authenticate purchases for collectors and artist compensation. Registrations are viewable alongside corresponding time-stamps. Auction houses are incorporating digital certification to improve operations through increased transparency and secured long-term records. Art investors have taken advantage of blockchain tokenization to promote fractional investments. Since ownership is ensured on a malleable digital platform, investors can purchase and liquidate pieces of art as easily as trading stocks.

 

Art records have historically been the subject of intense scrutiny. Blockchain technology brings a new solution that many professionals are praising.

How to Choose the Right Auction House for Your Art

The high end art market is dominated by three main auction houses, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg. These three powerhouses have existed for centuries. When choosing an auction house from these three for your art, it’s important to take a variety of factors into consideration.

Guarantees

Obviously money is an important factor in selling your art. Many auction houses’ success has stemmed from their guarantees, which ensure that the seller receives the amount of money they expect for their art regardless of how much it is is sold for at the auction.

Guarantees, however, can lead to conflict, especially when the top three high end auction houses are trying to work with a limited number of the same collectors. Remember that money is not normally the deciding factor when collectors are choosing an auction house. Clients often place more importance on personal relationships and the auction house’s past record.

Relationships

Personal relationships are one of the most important factors in choosing an art auction house. These days, clients have a lot to be worried about: dips in the economy, terrorist attacks, and talk of price fixing. They’re looking for an art auction house that is reassuring, personal, and professional. In a consignment based industry such as art auctions, networking and word of mouth referrals are extremely important. Each of the auction houses have different connections with sellers, clients, and fields.

Field Speciality

Each of the three high end houses have unique specialties. Sotheby’s is known for their expertise in American furniture and photography, while Christie’s specializes in European furniture, as well as books and manuscripts. While to an extent Phillips is still establishing its business, the auction house seems to be focusing on Impressionist, Modern, and contemporary art. Phillips now also includes one of the top automobile auctioneers, Bonham & Brooks. The best auction house will have a specialty that matches your art.

Track Record

Past performance is another important factor to take into consideration when selecting an art auction house. Christie’s is one of the world’s top art auction houses. In 2000 they had $2.3 billion in sales! Sotheby’s, on the other hand, has won 20 of the top 25 single-owner sales. These included the estate sales of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. It’s important to choose an art auction house with a track record that matches your goals.

When selecting one of the top three high-end auction houses, you need to consider their financial guarantees, the relationships you’ll be able to build, their field speciality, and past track record.

 

Inside the AI-Created Piece of Art

The day has come where Artificial Intelligence is now creating works of art. Many of us never thought we would see the day, and for many more of us, the thought that this day might come never even occurred to us. But, “robots” are creating art – and the first piece has sold for $432,500.

The high price tag was unexpected, as officials predicted it to go for anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000. That is the beauty of auctions such as Christie’s, the art house in NYC where this was sold. Christie’s wonders if AI art creation is the next big medium for the world stage.

The AI system that created this artwork, which is titled “Portrait of Edmond Belamy,” was constructed with a learning algorithm; both the AI system and the algorithm were designed by an art collective in Paris called Obvious.

There are similarities to this painting that compare to those famous ones through history. Many believe the subject matter, Edmond Belamy, is a man of the church due to his white collar and dark clothes. The man looks toward the painter in an austere manner with a fixed but abstract background. Conversely, the face is less defined than those in many paintings which it would be compared to. Christie’s offers this difference, along with the empty areas of the background.

The painting was described by Richard Lloyd, sale organizer at Christie’s, as not being much different from those that they have been selling for hundreds of years.
The process, on the other hand, was vastly different than any other painting that has been through Christie’s. Obvious, the art collective, put a total of 15,000 portraits from between the 14th and 20th centuries into the Artificial Intelligence learning system, then activated the “Generator” to create a new image. After the “Generator,” the next step is the “Discriminator,” which works to find the differences between the original portraits and those generated. The goal is, essentially, to fool the discriminator.

Obvious has experienced with AI-created art in many subjects, from portraits and life scenes to nature, but have found their best results with traditional style portraits.

While this may open up questions about who the official artist is to receive credit, Obvious chose to “sign” the painting at the bottom, not with a name, but with a part of the algorithm they created.

How to Start an Art Collection for Beginners

No matter what your age is, if you have always admired art and have wanted to have your own art collection to view, appreciate, and enhance your home, following are some suggestions as to how you can slowly begin this exciting and unique hobby/investment:

 

Research Before Buying

 

Have the fun of getting to know what type of art and which artists really appeal to you. You can do a lot of that online at your leisure, but it is even more enjoyable if you are able to go to art galleries, openings, exhibitions, and art fairs to get a major feel for what will really “turn you on.”

 

Find out about the artists, their various works, what their styles are, the galleries where they have been featured and shows they have been in, their previous sales, and as much information as you can put together.

 

A great many artists will also sell their art for extremely reasonable prices on their own websites or on Instagram because they don’t have to pay all the extra costs involved in commissions when represented by galleries. You can also save money by going to auctions during the off-season.

 

Making Purchases

 

Once you have looked at length, realize what your particular tastes are, and you suddenly see something that jumps out at you and is within your budget, go ahead and make the purchase. You will stretch your dollars if you consider an emerging artist that is new with his or her career but is being successful at making sales as compared to a popular and established artist.

 

Consider Prints or Multiples

 

If you just “have” to own a certain piece of art or photographs offered by a particular artist but just cannot afford an original, there are often prints available at a much lower price. For example, check out benefit auctions where the proceeds will go to a specific charity that you are happy to help sponsor.

 

What is Editioned Work?

 

That means that a set number of the prints or photographs has been designated, and once that number has been sold, no more can be purchased. In addition to your knowledge that you have something unique, there is a better chance of the piece increasing in value over time because of being a limited edition.

 

For Pleasure or as an Investment

 

Whichever way you decide to dedicate your art collection, the main idea is to have something delightful to look at and which will add to your decor. ENJOY!