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 and politics but has also been known to write at length about cats. She won the 2014 Best...

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