Ranking Artworks

In the New York Times there is a nice article about the economist David Galenson who is ranking artworks on how often it is mentioned in Art books.

And the illustration “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” I use as header for this blog is the number 1 by my surprise (or maybe not).

At first sight I don’t think this specific method has any scientific validity. To choose 33 (arbitrary) books to base the ranking on seems a bit strange. Why choose these books and not any other. What are the criteria? Did they include International books? Books in a foreign Language? You would probably get another list if you would choose only books in French, Japanese or a mix of them.

But any list is as good as any other list. At least he chooses a clear and verifiable method for it. It is maybe a better method then an Internet poll or ranking by some self proclaimed experts. But that is probably not the point he wants to make. I presume he has made this list to provoke. The main point he wants to make is that:

“what most bothers Mr. Galenson is his dismissal by art experts who, he writes in his forthcoming book, “almost unanimously refused to acknowledge the value that quantitative methods could have in their field.”

And he probably is right about this one. The importance of works Art can be judged by Art-Historians but also by an economist who for example looks at historical auction prices. The two specialisms combined will give a better picture of the importance of different works of art throughout the century.

Link to The article: A Textbook Example of Ranking Artworks, NY-Times