With the amount of data circulating the web, the emergence of sites that rank artists with the view to predict market trends, like ArtFacts and ArtRank, were inevitable. Enter Hendes & Graff, an artist ranking site dedicated exclusively to artists from Africa. Looking at living contemporary artists, South Africa’s Deborah Bell, Lyndi Sales, Bronwyn Lace, and Nandipha Mntambo have all received initial ratings.
Although Hendes & Graff definitely comes across as more supportive than, say, ArtRank with their Buy / Sell / Liquidate phraseology, artist ranking sites are still fairly controversial. How does artist ranking contribute to a contemporary art world that for many years has considered itself in a bubble, with sales now seeming to have declined in 2015? Artists from Africa are seeing increased exposure in London and New York with the popularity of the 1:54 fairs, the opening of a few new gallery spaces in London dedicated to our continent’s output, and most importantly the 2016 Armory Focus: African Perspectives section. In order to grow our collector base, is an artist ranking site the answer, or a symptom of an increasingly market and celebrity–driven industry? Hendes & Graff are differentiating themselves by appealing more towards curators and acquisition committees members, thereby potentially positively impacting artists’ institutional recognition.
Adesola Alabi is the creator and director of Hendes & Graff, which focuses on artists from Africa exclusively. Reporting since February 2015, Hendes & Graff are growing their content monthly. Based in London, and providing collectors, curators, and acquisition committees with ratings based on their research and considered opinions, Hendes & Graff’s latest additions to their site are Boris Nzebo (April), Moffat Takadiwa (March), Adejoke Tugbiyele (February), and Deborah Bell (January).
ArtThrob: Why has the African art market become increasingly speculative?
Adesola Alabi: Increasing speculation in the African art market can be largely attributed to increased speculation in the art market as a whole. A steady increase in global wealth over the last seven years has enabled a growing collector class to acquire art, both as a long term asset and as a short term investment. What makes the contemporary African art market so lucrative at this time is its relative accessibility and the opportunity it presents for making substantial resale returns.
AT: What are the measures you use to determine each artist’s rating and trajectory? You mention ‘International Exhibitions, Publications, Auction Results, and Career Duration amongst others’, how highly do local exhibitions, and do non-art awards (say photojournalism awards), impact on the artists ranking?
AA: To determine each artist’s rating and trajectory we use a proprietary model that incorporates math, research, and analytical judgement. Numerical data, such as auction results and career duration; qualitative data, such as innovations in the artist’s methodology; and current information from galleries and art world insiders, such as major upcoming exhibitions, new bodies of work, or significant shifts in pricing, are all assessed and calculated to determine a rating and trajectory.
Local exhibitions are evaluated within the same metric as international exhibitions. The impact of an exhibition is ultimately determined by how much it raises the artist’s profile and brings their work to new and influential audiences.
For the sake of parity, non-art awards are not taken into consideration when determining a rating.
AT: What are the differences between Speculative Grade and Acquisition Grade artists?
AA: The main difference between Speculative Grade and Acquisition Grade is our confidence in the artist’s long term value, both in terms of the market and in the future canons of art history. Speculative Grade indicates a high to moderate risk that the artist’s work will not leave a significant impression on art history or be a reliable long term asset. Acquisition Grade indicates a moderate to high probability that the artist’s work will hold and increase its market value, and art historical significance.
AT: How do you compare your services to those of other ranking site, for example Artfacts? Your regional specificity would, I imagine, be of interest to collectors who only want to support artists from Africa…
AA: Hendes & Graff differentiates itself from other sites such as Artfacts through our simplicity, and segment focus. Our Ratings service also differs from Ranking services such as ArtRank, since our ratings are not intended to be a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any artist’s work. Instead, they are primarily intended to enable collectors, curators, and acquisition committees to make smarter, more well-informed decisions. Another key difference is that we evaluate each artist’s potential holistically, that means acknowledging market forces but also placing importance on critical art historical grounding. Our driving question is always ‘Will this artist matter in 50 years time?’ Each rating is a response to that question.