Top 5 Art Price Databases
- The Art Sales Index
- The Art Market Research - AMR
- The Mei-Moses Art Index
In the art market, auction houses play an important role in information and intermediation, so they are a further useful tool for determining prices (being a meeting point between supply and demand).
Each of these databases has its own characteristics, its own advantages and its weaknesses, and the choice that leads the investor or collector to refer to one rather than the other depends exclusively on the objective of his research
Artprice is absolutely the most extensive databases in terms of the number of artists treated; the scope of sales they deal with is different. Artprice covers Fine Art and has a very strong coverage on the artists present in the market, analyzing the transactions from 1960 onwards.
All price indices for the art market suffer from a certain degree of "distortion" due to the problems inherent in obtaining sales data; the only data easily available are those made public by sales in the auction houses, as the transactions of private sellers are generally neither published nor made public
Artnet (www.artnet.com), based in New York, Berlin and Paris; other locations have been established in the United Kingdom, China and Russia. offers an archive of auction prices, along with a variety of other services related to the art world.
Users on the website can find articles about events and / or particular artists, as well as trends in the art market through the publication of the Artnet Analytic Reports.
These reports periodically note the information coming from the auction market of more than 5,000 of the most important artists who lead the global market; offers readers market information such as liquidity, volatility, sales volume and prices.
Starting from the Artnet Price Databases, three different reports are drawn up to better meet the needs of customers. The first, the Artist Index Report provides the overall progress over time of all the transitions that involved an artist chosen by the user; the Multiple Artist Report shows the comparison of the indices of two or more artists, always chosen by the user, to compare the trend of the quotations; The Analytic Prepare Report brings collectors' attention to the overall performance of the market, underlining mainly the trends in progress. In particular, the first two reports are highly customizable and easy to understand.
Artnet mainly deals with Fine Art, but since February 2009 has launched a small database on decorative arts.
The database covers a wide range of worldwide auctions that occur periodically, and is constantly updated in case of changes and new events.
Over 182,000 artists are analyzed, coming from every nationality and every style; through a search engine you can get the name of the author, the artistic current, the dimensions of the works, the year of production, the estimate prices for the next sessions.
Finally, the transactions carried out in the auctions are provided: it is possible to view all the works in the database, reported in ascending or descending order (chosen by the user), correlated by the images.
Within the site you can access a specific price index; built on the model of the financial ones, such as S & P 500, the Artnet Index aggregates the data coming from the transitions at auction and already present in the database.
The element that most differentiates this database from others in the network concerns the fact that the data provided are not only from the auction houses, but also from the galleries: this allows users to identify concretely the places where the works are for sale .
Since 1999 artnet.com AG has been listed on the Neuer Markt of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange; moreover, since 2004 Artnet has established solid partnerships with Sotheby's and with Art Basel.
Artprice (www.artprice.com) is a French database created in 1987, and is currently one of the most complete in terms of auction numbers and artists analyzed. There are more than 300.000 art catalogs covering more than twenty million auction sales, accessible after registration.
The database includes more than 400,000 artists; once chosen via the search engine the artist who wants to deepen, offers the user a complete vision on all the most important aspects, from the record award prices, the images, the estimates of the works not yet sold, the price levels, the indices, and much often also a complete biography.
It is also given the opportunity to sell and buy works directly on the website.
This is what differentiates it from Artnet: if the last is given only the opportunity to interact online with the auction houses, in Artprice there is a catalog with works always on sale.
Artprice publishes reports and articles concerning the development of the art market, and through the publication of Trends presents a report of the auctions; some of these reports are also accessible without registration.
In January 2008 the Art Market Confidence Index (AMCI) was launched: with reference to the world market, and drawn up in real time, it uses the same theoretical foundations as those used to calculate the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan; the progression of the index allows in fact to follow in real time the reactions of the actors of the art market in relation to issues of current relevance (stock exchange variations, geopolitical events, results of media sales or exogenous events that can affect economies world).
This system is then connected to the price indices of Artprice and the indicators of the art market are reported in real time, trying to anticipate also future developments.
The methodology of the index is based on a permanent international survey carried out on 1.3 million members, most of them active on the art market; the representative sample varies over time and only the last 1000 answers are used to calculate the AMCI values.
This index can easily be compared to other economic and social phenomena, in order to make the perspective as broad as possible.
Since 1997, calculation algorithms have been developed that have made the indicators developed by ArtPrice the reference point for the art market, establishing the company as a world leader in the information of this segment of the market.
It provides daily advice to the likes of the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ArtNews, The Art Newspaper, Business Week, The Economist, Le Monde, Le Journal Des Arts and many more.
The Blouin Art Sales Index is one of the oldest databases mentioned above, although at a relatively recent time it was bought by Louise Blouin Media and relaunched through their Artinfo portal.
The database covers more than 3,500 auction results for more than 200,000 artists, with 500 different auction houses, from 1922: it is the only database to perform analysis on the art market for almost a century.
The index reports the data from the auction sales and analyzes the performance of the prices of the individual artists, trying to provide consistent assessments both on past performance and on that assumed in the short term future period.
AMR, or Art Market Research, differs from previous providers because it does not allow access to an online database of auction prices, but has developed into the creation of indices.
AMR allows registered users to view a wide variety of genre-based or artist-based art indices, which can be slightly modified to suit the needs of the user.
Since 1985, AMR has developed 500 indexes, and allows the creation of another 100,000 online, through personalized development. The average values of the works are given near a table that illustrates the indices used, in a period of time from 1975 to today.
In addition, AMR has its own investment vehicle specialized in investment in art, and therefore also offers an art consulting service. It covers a much wider spectrum of the market: it does not only deal with Fine Arts, but also with decorative arts and collectibles (such as jewelry, ceramics and furniture), as well as a variety of other markets (metals and precious stones), wines and real estate).
But the market analyzed more frequently is that of paintings, divided into certain categories including European countries, America, and the art market in general.
A wide variety of indices are therefore available to users; the sector offered, however, does not cover the entire art market, or all artists and genres.
As for paintings, for example, each index is based on the artist who is classified within a specific sector (it is not possible to add or delete artists for an index).
The index is expressed in dollars, pounds, yen, euro and other European currencies. The method used to construct the index is the average price method: in this way one could risk seeing a surge in prices in one year, perhaps caused by the sale of some very expensive works, while it may happen that in other years this phenomenon does not manifest itself.
This method of index construction can therefore show a sharp rise or fall due to a sharp price deviation, which is not necessarily representative of the market.
In reality, not all prices can be viewed online, and registration can not be made through the site; according to their list of customers, the service appears to be directed to a primarily institutional audience143, rather than to collectors or private investors.
Jainping Mei and Michael Moses, professors of finance at the Stern School of Business of New York University, have developed an index that makes it possible to bring the world of finance closer to that of art.
In their work, Art as an Investment (2002), they considered the paintings sold at auction houses in New York between 1950 and 2000, all traded more than once each.
Taken as the two biggest obstacles in analyzing the market of art are the heterogeneity of the works and the non-frequency of their trade, the two economists have tried to overcome these problems by constructing a new set of data, based on repeated sales, and referring to the record prices achieved; in this way there has been a decisive increase in the number of price comparisons compared to previous studies, such as those of Baumol and Goetzmann.
They collected almost 5,000 pairs of data concerning the prices of works sold during the period 1875-2000; with this large amount of data available, they were able to build an annual index for art, as well as minor indices (always annual) for American works, for Old Masters, Impressionists and modern paintings for different periods.
These annual indices are then used to direct the discussion if the characteristic risk-return of the works of art is able to cope well with the traditional financial securities, such as stocks and bonds.
Studying the value of works of art with financial methods is not possible.
The prices drawn up by the galleries or directly by the artists are neither reliable nor easily available; on the contrary, the prices of the auctions are available in the catalogs, and can go to constitute a database that allows to determine the change in the value of the objects of art both in the different periods and in the different collections.
A database was then created for the American market, mainly that of New York, and all the sales occurred in the major auction houses from 1950 to 2000 were analyzed.
If a work had already been previously sold to an auction, the catalog was recovered which showed the hammer price.
Many paintings had more repeated sales, some even six each; every resale (therefore every pair of values) represents a single point in the database, which counts in all, as has been said, more than 5,000 entries.
The data have been continuously analyzed, so as to guarantee the construction of the annual index to starting from 1871.
The totality of the collected data has been subdivided into three main categories: the first concerns the American Paintings, dating between 1700 and 1950; the second includes the Impressionists and Modern Art (dated between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th); the third concerns the Old Masters, works created between the end of the twelfth century and before the end of the nineteenth.
The database contains more than 5,000 price pairs, of which 1,000 around are for American Paintings, 1,709 for the Impressionists and 2,288 for Old Masters.
It can be seen that the data are quite scarce for the period from 1875 to 1935, but they increase rapidly after 1935. The graph also shows that most of the purchased works are held for long periods of time (on average 28 years). (Mei and Moses 2002); this indicates how the works purchased in the first period are resold after several years.
Discrimination of the data set is an important focal point that leads to the interpretation of this study: the selection procedure based on multiple sales occurred in the major American auction houses tends to truncate both sides of the distribution of the yield (Mei and Moses 2002).
The chosen sample may suffer from a "backsliding" of the data, as defined by the authors, meaning that the data of the works sold before 1950 come only from the transactions made by Christie's and Sotheby's.
Given the reputation of these auction houses, the database may present uncertainties regarding paintings of great value after 1950; however, these weaknesses can be mitigated by two factors. The first concerns the fact that the data collected include a large number of works with a decidedly poor performance; this is partly due to the fact that the auction houses are obliged to sell all the works they have available, whether they are of great value or not. However, it should be stressed that Christie's and Sotheby's have in the past encouraged the sale of low-priced works by established artists to attract new collectors.
Therefore, data of works that have had a substantial collapse have also been analyzed. Secondly, data before 1950 come from well-known auction houses, so the prices of established artists have always been examined. In any case, the paintings of great value that were purchased a long time ago at lower prices directly from artists or gallery owners, were not included in the sampling; equally the masterpieces belonging to the museum collections were excluded (Mei and Moses 2002).
Because of these distortions, the average annual return on an investment in the art of works sold more than once must be regarded as approximate, since it is linked to the average return obtained by investors during the period; the yield could also be reduced by transition costs. Likewise, financials will also have suffered some distortions over this long period of time, such as market liquidity or transition costs.
In conclusion we can say art has a price, the debate concerning the relationship between "commercial value" and "qualitative value" or "cultural" of the work brings out the inconsistency that very often occurs between the level of prices and the level of quality or cultural affirmation, based on variables such as critical recognition based on participation in major exhibitions, specialized press publications, museum acquisitions, catalogs.
It is easy to convince yourself that in the art market the businessman and collector need almost continuous monitoring of the price system.
The ranking of the hundred best living artists gives each artist a score calculated on the basis of the average quotations of important works and the quantitative-qualitative entity of cultural awards.
The judgment for each artist concerning the price of the works is considered in relation to the level of his "cultural reputation", starting from the assumption that the historical-critical recognition is the factor that in the long run must be decisive for the definition of the hierarchy of quotations.
This ranking indicates the recognition obtained by the artists, but above all their commercial success, highlighting the growth trends in the ranking position; it can therefore be an aid and orientation tool for those who approach the art market for the first time, looking for a good low risk investment.
The score given to each artist is the result of partial scores obtained on the basis of participation in group and solo exhibitions in major museums and galleries, as well as the appearance of monographs and reviews articles on famous art magazines; the price quotations of the individual artists are the average quotations useful to define the greater or lesser convenience in the purchase of their works of medium-format works representative of the artist's production.
The convenience of the purchase is indicated by a series of parameters: "very expensive", "expensive", "fair price", "convenient" and "very convenient".
If the ranking identifies the new artistic trends and new emerging artists, the limit would be the fact that in the assessment of the historical and artistic recognition, are considered only exhibitions sponsored by major public institutions, the most important museums and the most exclusive magazines .
The cultural value of an artist builds continuously and with very long dynamics that are derived from the consolidated recognition among critics, gallery owners and museums, while the price of the works may be subject to sudden fluctuations.
Continuous monitoring of the price system is therefore necessary, relying on reliable statistical instruments such as price indices.
Frey and Pommerehne (1991) argue that it is not possible to construct the evaluation indices for the art market, as it does for other markets, due to the inherent characteristics of the arts, being characterized by the uniqueness, do not lend themselves be evaluated with the average evolution of prices.
According to the authors, the only possible solution is to build very specific indices, related to homogeneous and equally specific categories
Despite the good "work of art" has some very peculiar characteristics, analogies have been made with other markets, which although having characteristics similar to those of the art market, have already enjoyed a method for systematic detection for some time. of prices.
It was Baumol in 1986 to compare the common elements between the art market and the financial market: between them there are different similarities but at the same time substantial differences. Although in many studies, as we will see in the chapter, the returns that characterize the art market with those of the financial sector, there are numerous discrepancies between these two segments.
Firstly, the number of artistic assets on the market is far higher than the number of financial stocks (stocks and bonds), not to mention that a share issued by a company is exactly the same as another stock of the same, while two paintings by the same author are basically two completely different works.
Furthermore, the stock market has a daily trend and frequency, and the price index is updated on a daily basis; on the contrary, the art market tends to have a half-yearly rather than a daily trend (take into account that when analyzing the movements of the art market, account is taken of auction sales, which usually fall in spring and autumn, as private transactions are difficult, if not impossible, to measure).
Finally, artistic assets are characterized by the fact that their value is indivisible, unlike financial products.
Other parallels of the art market have been found with the real estate market, mainly because they present similar price monitoring difficulties.
In real estate markets, the same object can give rise to transactions that are very distant over time, nor is there a perfect fungibility between properties; moreover, in real estate markets, transactions take place without the continuity of the exchange; finally, transition costs are certainly higher on these markets (much higher than those on the stock exchange)
Despite elements in common, it should be noted that the real estate market is even more complex in monitoring, due to the lack of information on sales and purchases.
In fact, the Repeat Sale Regression method derives from the real estate market: although it was born in totally different fields, it is in this sector that it has found the greatest applications. No wonder, then, why these two segments, that of real estate and that of works of art, are united.