The case explores the journey of Marek Claassen, a German art lover who transformed a passion for building databases for local art galleries into a commercial venture that ranks artists worldwide. Artfacts seeks to rank all artists as transparently as the facts allow. Instead of focusing on transactions, which are often shrouded in secrecy, rankings are weighted according to the attention artists received from experts in the art world such as curators, art historians, art critics, gallery owners and collectors. Generated by an algorithm that is updated on a weekly basis, rankings capture the entire spectrum of art from the intellectual to the psychological, the spiritual to the aesthetic. Twenty years after starting Artfacts, Claassen hired a CEO, Jonas Almgren, and CMO Andrew Antoniades to launch an online mobile app. ‘Limna’ takes advantage of Artfact’s world-class database to estimate the value of artwork coming onto the market. Buyers and gallery owners can use it to assess and negotiate the price of an artwork.
The case can be taught from various angles. For an organizational behavior course, it illustrates the way rankings are created and their role in the creative industries. For an entrepreneurship class, it can show how entrepreneurial longevity in one field of business—the economies of scale gained from the experience curve—can lead to innovations in related areas, and how a highly specialized asset can become a competitive advantage. In this case, the initial asset has become one of the world’s largest art databases and a profitable venture. For courses on creative industries, it can be used to show the link between art and exhibitions, and the difference between the primary market (galleries) and secondary market (major auctions).
- Marek Claassen
- Art auctions
- Art galleries
- Big data