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Although actors in the contemporary art world tend to deny the fact, nationality and territory have a major effect on artistic fame. This reflects the uneven representation of countries in the elaboration of rankings, like the Kunstkompass, used to objectivize the fame and visibility of artists.
The very small number of countries concentrating the most famous artists also shows a homology with the nationality of the most powerful players from the contemporary art world, as listed in the ArtReview Power In concluding the article, I show that, at least for top artists over recent years, the nationalities of the most visible artists in institutions and those of the most successful artists on the artists on the market diverge.
The sociology of art emerged in its present conception in s France in the form of a double tradition, influenced by two leading authors who developed substantial empirical research in the area: Raymonde Moulin Moulin, , who studied the art market, and Pierre Bourdieu and his collaborators Bourdieu et al.
But although globalization began to attract considerable attention from social scientists in the s Bartelson, ; Therborn, , the theme did not really take hold in the sociology of art at first, and empirical analyses remained limited for many years before expanding significantly Bellavance, ; Quemin, , a , , a , b ; Van Hest, , Velthuis, In this article, 1 I study the impact of nationality and territory - the artist's country of residence - on artistic success Bowness, and the process of consecration, utilizing empirical data on artists and the players who promote them.
This will allow me to show that even at a time when globalization is supposed to be the rule in the art sector, national entities still matter and a strong hierarchy still exists between nations.
Finally, a number of other economic rankings are mentioned in order to compare their results with those of the previous lists. As soon as art history emerged as a discipline, authors had to evaluate the aesthetic value of works and decide who the most important 'visual artists' were i. In The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects , Italian artist, art critic and historian Giorgio Vasari selected dozens of artists, 3 yet never attempted to rank them, much less attribute marks in order to quantify or objectify aesthetic quality.
Later in history, French art critic Roger de Piles in his Cours de peinture par principes selected 57 dead or living significant artists to comment on their works and award them marks - out of 20 - on four criteria: composition, drawing, colors and expressivity. However, although this quantification would have enabled the artists to be compared and ranked had each of their marks been added up, it never occurred to him to do so. Things changed radically in with the first ever ranking of artists to be published on a yearly basis, the Kunstkompass the 'art compass' in German.
The rankings were published by Willy Bongard, an economic journalist with a strong interest in art, in the German economic magazine Capital Verger, ; Rohr-Bongard, One fact should be stressed: the first ranking of artists appeared simultaneously with the emergence of contemporary art as a category 4 at the historical and seminal exhibition When Attitudes Become Form , curated by Harald Szeemann at Bern Kunsthalle in Switzerland, in It seems that with the emergence of the new form of art, or 'contemporary creation,' it immediately became necessary to reduce the uncertainty concerning its value.
From until , the Kunstkompass was published regularly on an almost yearly basis in Capital before moving in to another German economic journal, Manager Magazin, which also published the list annually. Capital did not stop publishing a ranking of contemporary artists, though, as it developed a partnership with a firm, Artfacts, to publish a second ranking of contemporary visual artists, also on a yearly basis: Capital Kunstmarkt Kompass!
In any kind of ranking, the results depend directly on the methodology used, which in turn reflects a particular view of the way that the art world works. A brief presentation is therefore required of the method used by these two major rankings to compile the list of the top visual artists in the world each year.
Since its creation in , the Kunstkompass has been based on a system of points allocated to different kinds of artist visibility. The system has evolved slightly over time and is not entirely transparent.
It has only been made public on a handful of occasions. Artists receive points on three major occasions:. A solo show at MoMA in New York City, for example, or the Tate Modern in London, or the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, will yield a very high number of points, whereas other solo shows in other less important but still significant institutions will generate fewer points. Once again, the more prestigious the institution, the higher the number of points for instance, participation in the most prestigious biennials such as Venice's in Italy or the Kassel Documenta in Germany will yield a very high number of points, whereas other significant biennials organized in other cities will also qualify, but with fewer points.
Since a solo show gives more visibility to artists and plays an even greater role in their consecration process Quemin, b , c , the most important solo shows weigh more than participation in the most prestigious collective exhibitions.
A certain number of points are allocated to each previous occasion of visibility and at the end of the year the points are totaled, allowing the Kunstkompass team to publish its annual ranking of the top contemporary living artists in the world. It is important to mention here that almost since its inception, the Kunstkompass has been criticized for showing a strong bias in favor of Germany over-representing German institutions among certifying ones and attributing them coefficients often deemed too high relative to their real weighting in the international contemporary art world; I return to this point later and, to a lesser extent, in favor of neighboring countries within its cultural zone of influence such as Austria.
Nonetheless, the ranking has existed for more than 40 years now and its general methodology has remained essentially the same. Unlike the team responsible for compiling the Kunstkompass, Artfacts uses a much broader range of certifying institutions and, in particular, includes many events associated with the art market: private contemporary art galleries, public institutions with or without a collection of their own: that is to say, museums and contemporary art centers , biennials and triennials, other spaces for temporary exhibitions, contemporary art fairs, auctions, art hotels, art reviews, journals and magazines, art books, art schools, festivals, non-profit organizations, and even art management institutions and private collections.
Although it cannot be completely exhaustive, this extremely wide survey of information limits the risk of certain biases. Whereas some institutions are crucial to the consecration process, others appear to be more secondary or even marginal.
It is thus important that the coefficients attributed to each of the different institutions reflect this difference. With this in mind, Artfacts has created an algorithm that determines the weight of each institution based on the fame of the artists associated with it.
In essence 'network points' are allocated. All artists collected by museums and represented by galleries receive points which are then allocated to the institutions collecting or representing the same artists: these 'network points' thus reflect the reputation of the institution concerned. An artist receives points for each exhibition in a museum or gallery. This is precisely one of the major interests of the method elaborated by Artfacts: the attempt to reflect this peculiarity of the contemporary art world.
Unlike other methodologies, such as Kunstkompass's, in which subjectivity plays an important role in determining coefficients and generates very significant biases leading, as we shall see, to an overrepresentation of German artists , the coefficients used by Artfacts are not effectively set once and for all, or only very occasionally reconsidered, as is the case with the Kunstkompass.
Instead they are constantly actualized - that is, every week - by the algorithm, taking into account the certifying power of the institutions, based in turn on the reputation of the artists associated with them. Moreover, the scope of the database is a key aspect, with no less than , ranked artists in March and , more referenced in the database without any ranking! As we shall see, even in this second ranking the presence of Western artists is overwhelming.
This cannot be explained only by the fact that they or their galleries are unaware of the existence of Artfacts and thus fail to let the company know about artists' activities. It seems that most information is collected indirectly by Artfacts and not transmitted directly by artists or their galleries. Hence, the more connected to the core of the art world a gallery or an artist is, the more likely artists are to appear in the database and to receive a high score.
Besides, it would be somewhat naive to believe that non-Western artists or galleries are simply unaware of the existence of Artfacts because of their geographical peripheral position. While doing fieldwork in both Brazil and the United Arab Emirates I was able to see how gallerists were perfectly aware of the existence of Artfacts and even used it in my presence when I mentioned artists that they did not know or when they tried to objectivize the visibility of their own artists during our discussions.
As a private firm, Artfacts does not publish or even provide on request the construction mode for its algorithm, which is protected by industrial secrecy. This fact is frustrating for any social scientist wishing to evaluate the rigorousness of the methodology used. However it was possible to reconstitute some of the coefficients used, which revealed its high level of efficiency and relevance.
The internationally recognized Austrian-French gallery Thaddaeus Ropac, for example, weighed over 3 times more than the French-Swiss-Luxembourgian gallery Bernard Ceysson. Although the main ranking is based on the number of points accumulated since the indicator was first created in , the ranking is not much different - at the top of the list - from the one that would be produced by considering only the number of points accumulated over the previous twelve months: success generally begets success, comprising a good illustration of Robert Merton's Matthew effect Merton, For many years now, I have used the 'indigenous' Kunstkompass indicator to study globalization in contemporary art Quemin, , a , b , , a , b , c.
As early as , with the aim of studying globalization in the visual arts sector, I began calculating each country's share of the total points allocated by Kunstkompass each year - although the ranking is individual and artists belonging to the same country are not aggregated in the list itself.
Since then, the method has regularly produced similar results year after year and has given rise to what could be likened to a 'social law,' in Durkheimian terms, revealing a strong hierarchy among countries that has evolved very little over time, once again reflecting that success generally begets success, both individually and nationally. This can be explained by the strategies developed by various players from the contemporary art world, whether these strategies are conscious or not: for museum directors and curators, the prestige of their institutions will directly benefit the status of the artists being shown - which, in turn, as my data shows, is connected to their country of origin or residence.
This produces a path-dependency, in which the reputation of institutions can gradually rise, in turn impacting on the local artists that they exhibit, and vice-versa. For collectors, their investment in art is safer if they choose artists whose prices may increase, which is more often the case - or at least thought to be more often the case - for American and German artists, for instance Quemin, As we shall see, prestigious contemporary art auctions show a very strong concentration of American, German and British artists, and auctions play a major role in pushing up record prices.
Hence the national concentration effects that, among other factors, reflect these choices. The first point to be observed in the table I is the number of countries appearing from to To these we can add the figures for the period running from to in the Table 2.
Despite the widespread idea that today's contemporary art world has become globalized - and notwithstanding a slight increase from 16 to 23 in the number of countries represented from the mids to the start of the s - the number of countries participating in the international contemporary art scene has been fairly stable since the beginning of the millennium 9 and remains very limited given that the world has between and different nations.
Furthermore, the weight of the few countries that appear in Table 1 is very uneven. The percentage of all other countries appearing in Table 1 is lower still and generally due to a single artist.
This makes the presence of these countries on the international contemporary art scene particularly insubstantial. What changes if we now 'correct' the Kunstkompass data listing the artists' nationalities by focusing instead on countries of residence?
The most important result to highlight is that the number of countries shown in Table 3 and illustrated in Graph 1 drops from 21 countries to The weight of the various countries does not vary particularly except in the case of the most 'marginal,' 'peripheral' and 'exotic' nations whose direct contribution to the international contemporary art scene often vanishes completely. Those of their nationals who make it on the international art scene frequently live precisely in the USA.
Thus the share of the latter country in the Kunstkompass data increases very significantly from We can undertake the same procedure with the Artfacts ranking, first calculating the share of each country - in terms of artist nationality - in the total points for the top artists and then the number of artists residing in each country and their ranking in the hierarchy.
The top of the list of represented nations is as indicated in Table 4. The first thing to observe is that although the Kunstkompass and Capital Kunstmarkt Kompass use very different methodologies to identify the most visible international artists, the two lists display very similar results in terms of the most important countries concentrating the highest number of these leading artists cf.
Van Hest, Not only are the top 7 countries identical in both cases, but the top 3 countries in are also ranked in the same order. Although differences exist in the order of the next four countries, their share of the total for each indicator is very close in the two rankings, making it unlikely that the order would have been identical.
Unlike in the case of the Kunstkompass ranking, the United States comes far ahead in the Artfacts data It still comfortably outdistances the United Kingdom 7. Although Italy occupied strong positions on the international contemporary art scene in the s, sustained by the renewed vigor of the trans-avant-garde during the s, its influence is today very limited with only 1.
Although the ideology of globalization with its mixing of different cultures and the supposed erasure of national borders has been very popular in the contemporary art world for the last two decades Quemin, , a , b , , and even though most actors from the art world love to believe that an artist's nationality does not matter, my analysis shows a very different reality.
The international contemporary art world remains highly territorialized and hierarchized between countries, whatever source we turn to in the attempt to objectivize the phenomenon.
Already extremely pronounced in the previous Artfacts data, the phenomenon of concentration is even more extreme if we consider the different countries of residence , since artists from the 'periphery' of the international contemporary art world Quemin, b tend to migrate to the more central countries in order to become consecrated.
To study this phenomenon, I decided to 'correct' the data published by Artfacts by once again considering the country of residence and creation rather than nationality. However, the results obtained are substantial enough to be identified here and any existing inaccuracy would be insufficient to affect the general trends that emerge. Endless artistic wanderlust appears to be a myth - and no artist lives in more than two countries over the long-term.
Even today, creative activity is still very much embedded in a given territory Quemin, , c. When artists travel abroad for a project, they still keep a base as their home generally the country in which they were born. Of the top most visible artists in the world, no less than 96 live and create in just one country on a long-term basis, and only 4 in two countries!
Moreover, if we examine the artists' countries of residence rather than their passport, a change occurs in just 19 cases. This figure is far from negligible but the phenomenon concerns a clear minority, and even when artists tend to move to an important international center for artistic creation and recognition, they sometimes continue to live and create part of the time in their home countries.
As a matter of fact, those artists whose presence in the rankings is most unlikely due to their 'exotic' nationality have often settled for many years in the 'center' of the international contemporary art scene - that is to say, the USA, and New York in particular - and have contributed to the vitality of the American scene while boosting their chances of acquiring wider recognition in the international art world.
If we once again consider the share of each country in the total points received by the top artists in the Artfacts ranking, this time taking the countries of residence into account, the results are as appear in Table 4 and as illustrated in Graph 2. Once again, the USA comes first with nearly 10 more points than when nationality is considered: This provides perfect illustration of the country's central role in today's international contemporary art scene. The USA thus comes far ahead of its usual challenger, Germany Once more, it should be underlined that Western European countries in actuality, a very small number of them and North America account for nearly all the indicator
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