Nearly two dozen ARLIS/NY members gathered on Thursday, June 19, 2014, for a lively presentation and conversation about the Artnet Price Database, hosted by Heidi Haas of The Morgan Library & Museum. The program, introduced by Heidi Lee-Komaromi, Director of Strategic Partnerships, was presented by Jordan Quitko, Senior Manager of Client Services. Jordan first spoke briefly about other Artnet subscription products, such as “Market Alerts,” “Analytic Reports” (formerly “Market Reports”), and the newly introduced global Artnet News website, before concentrating on the Price Database.

Artnet’s Price Database (“PDb”) boasts more than eight million art auction results records dating from as early as 1985. PDb includes records for more than 1,600 auction houses and 300,000 artists. (By the way, a user can check the date coverage of any given auction house by searching the house by a single-year date range, working backwards until he or she hit zero results.) Artnet gallery information is not included in the Price Database, since sale prices are not public, legal record.

From the beginning of the presentation, Jordan opened the floor to the attendees for their comments, complaints, and suggestions. Artnet’s pricing structure, and its relationship to users’ expectations and usage came up for early discussion.
Artnet charges subscribers per search. One search can comprise up to 100 results, with additional results charged as additional searches in units of 100 results. Multiple charges based on a single search may put a premium for subscribers on filtering their search parameters and on checking the number of results (by using the optional “Check Results” feature) before viewing the outcome of their searches.

One recommendation during the presentation for reducing unwanted results was to limit a search by sale date with the current date as the end date, eliminating results for lots in sales not yet held. Search results by artist default sort by lot number. A user can elect to sort (ascending or descending) by price, work date, or sale date.  Another point of note is that when searched a single artist might appear multiple times in the drop-down menu depending on collaborations with other artists. For now, separate searches must be made for each of the collaborations listed in the menu.

Jordan pointed out an interesting no-cost workaround to find recent auction sales results for an artist in Artnet without using the Price Database. An artist search of Artnet using the search box at the top of the webpage (rather than within the Price Database) will pull up all entries for the artist. Clicking on the artist’s name in any entry that appears will direct a user to his or her home page. Click “Auction Results” and then “Recent Auctions,” and you will see a webpage for sales within the last thirty days. Auction houses in Artnet’s “Auction House Partnership Program” will display auction information, including sale and house, estimate and hammer price. Results from non-participating members will only display the artist, title, and medium.

Toward the end and just before the sumptuous reception, Jordan asked the participants what features they would like to see in future upgrades to Artnet. Suggestions ranged from hot-linked auction sale names (to capture other lots in the same sale) to more ways to distinguish saved searches from each other.

Ross Day, Collection Development Librarian, Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art