5 questions with… ArtFacts.Net
Charts and contemporary art. ArtFacts.Net search for information about artists and exhibitions to create a visualization of artists’ career. Marek Claassen, director of Artfacts talks about sellection, exhibition and information.
1: ArtFacts.Net works with one of the more powerful databases -maybe the most powerful one- within contemporary art. You are dealing with a very important amount of information. How do you manage this level of information?
Marek Claassen: We have three main sections of information retrieval: 1-Our editors monitor art institution websites around the world, and copy and paste relevant exhibition information into the ArtFacts.Net back office system. 2-Users report missing content, mainly exhibitions and institutions, via forms or direct mail to our editorial team. 3-The editors then validate and process the information into the ArtFacts.Net back office system. We physically visit archives, libraries, or purchase books about exhibitions, then extract the information needed and process it into the ArtFacts.Net back office system
2: The key point in ArtFacts.Net is the artist career. In many cases, if you want to get a CV from an artist the most updated version is in Artfacts.
MC: Art history is exhibition history; that’s the philosophy of ArtFacts.Net. In our point of view, any artistic production has to undergo a ruthless extractive distillation through repeated curatorial selection, public exhibition and intellectual discourse to become an object of value ready to be resold repetitively on the dealer market. In this context, the artist’s CV represents the ability of the artist to expose themselves and accept public feedback, and not avoiding it.
3: The ranking of artists presents a peculiar situation: on one hand the ranking puts all the artists in a competition, on the other one gives a very fast image of the global situation of each artist. How did you decided to build an enormous ranking like the one in Artfacts.Net?
MC: The main power of the ArtFacts.Net ranking lies in the graphic representation of the artist’s professional CV as a dynamic line graph. In a globalized environment with hundreds of thousands of artists participating, mass information, an endless variety of styles and a need for decisiveness, a chart inheriting crucial information is a MUST. It empowers the viewer with factual knowledge to adjust subjectiveness with big data facts.
The idea was to build a meter, a quantitative tool based on curatorial appreciation instead of sales, free of personal interest and built like a machine. Just to have something to put up against lurid headlines about sales and sex.
4: Not all the exhibitions and all the artists, neither all the exhibition spaces, appear in Artfacts.Net. Are there any inclusion criteria? How do you work with local agents to verify which spaces are the interesting ones?
MC: First of all, we do not want to list every show. The environment that hosts a show has to be dedicated to the arts. Bank branches, restaurants and other non-art related spaces are not listed. The closer a show is related to a pure sales event, the greater is the likelihood that we do not enter the event. A good example here is an auction sale preview. The content of the exhibition has to have some kind of curatorial impact. A typical example of an uncurated show is an “Accrochage“. We do not evaluate spaces in terms of “being interesting”. We do not judge. It is not our intention to distinct between interesting and tiresome. As long as a space meets our minimum criteria of being accepted as an art space, we will insert the exhibition.
5: Artfacts.Net focuses on art market, but it’s clear that it is also a useful tool in other contexts. Using exhibitions as primary material, it is interesting to observe that Artfacts works with art fairs. How is the relation with art fairs? How do you consider the art fairs in terms of “exhibition”?
MC: Artfacts.Net considers the art fairs as meta shows. In our point of view, one art fair encorporates multiple smaller shows. It’s a show of exhibitors. The repesented galleries and/or other art institutions function as the ‘artists’ of the fair. They are curated by the fair commitee. This makes the art fair an interesting career meter for galleries and therefore indirectly affects the artists ranking.
On the other hand, the selection process in terms of artistic content is abstract, not concrete. But this arbitrariness leaves a lot of room to fill as a social hub. And this is where the real power of art fairs comes into place.