Admit it: we’ve all Googled ourselves and tried to judge our fame based on Google search results. Because like it or not, the search engine is an indicator of a person’s cultural popularity. Now a researcher at Washington State University has used Google hits as an indicator of an artist’s fame in a study measuring the factors that influence sales at auction.

Figure 1 from Tekindor’s paper is titled “Mean price of artists and artists’ rank trend.” (via

Arzu Aysin Tekindor, a PhD candidate in the School of Economic Sciences, set out to examine the relationship between the value of paintings and the fame of their creators. She sampled a group of 1,100 Impressionist and modern works auctioned at Christie’s and Sotheby’s between 1998 and 2011, by such 19th- and 20th-century artists as Degas, Picasso, Munch and Matisse. Many of her findings — which she notes are still preliminary — are fairly straightforward: that prices increased for paintings showing an artist’s characteristic subject matter or style, that an artist’s signature increased the value of a work.

But Tekindor also studied Google hits as an indicator of “artist popularity effect,” and she found that a 1% increase in Google hits resulted in a price increase of 38%. That’s not bad! Now the real question is: can artists game the system? And if so, who will figure out how to game it first?

h/t Pacific Standard

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

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