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Network Dimensions in the Getty Provenance Index


Maximilian Schich, Christian Huemer, Piotr Adamczyk, and Yang-Yu Liu.

Publication data:

arXiv, June 9, 2017.


In this article we make a case for a systematic application of complex network science to study art market history and more general collection dynamics. We reveal social, temporal, spatial, and conceptual network dimensions, i.e. network node and link types, previously implicit in the Getty Provenance Index (GPI). As a pioneering art history database active since the 1980s, the GPI provides online access to source material relevant for research in the history of collecting and art markets. Based on a subset of the GPI, we characterize an aggregate of more than 267,000 sales transactions connected to roughly 22,000 actors in four countries over 20 years at daily resolution from 1801 to 1820.

Striving towards a deeper understanding on multiple levels we disambiguate social dynamics of buying, brokering, and selling, while observing a general broadening of the market, where large collections are split into smaller lots. Temporally, we find annual market cycles that are shifted by country and obviously favor international exchange. Spatially, we differentiate near-monopolies from regions driven by competing sub-centers, while uncovering asymmetries of international market flux. Conceptually, we track dynamics of artist attribution that clearly behave like product categories in a very slow supermarket.

Taken together, we introduce a number of meaningful network perspectives dealing with historical art auction data, beyond the analysis of social networks within a single market region. The results presented here have inspired a Linked Open Data conversion of the GPI, which is currently in process and will allow further analysis by a broad set of researchers.

Article  2017