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ARTBnk: Demystifying The World of Art Valuation

Get to know ARTBnk, the company who’s trying to bring art valuation to the masses by arming them with information to remove the inherent bias of human appraisers and make the process less of an art and more of a science.

By Gerwin Co
September 3, 2021

It has been said that the process of art valuation is an art in itself. It’s almost an arcane practice whose fine details are known only to a select group of practitioners. There are no set methods in determining the fair market value of an artwork so it is often very subjective, resulting in wild price swings from valuator to valuator.

Now imagine if someone were to take out that bias and instead of solely relying on human appraisers, add in big data, AI and image recognition. The goal is to produce a more consistent and accurate valuation that will empower buyers to make better informed decisions. Wouldn’t a more objective exercise be better? Well, it’s time you get to know ARTBnk.

Founded in 2016, this New Hampshire-based company isn’t your run-of-the-mill art appraiser who is trying to subvert the industry. Sure, it serves the same market by doing the same thing, but it’s the way it does it that makes the difference. You can look at ARTBnk as a tech company whose SaaS (Software as a Service) product is designed to be used for fine arts evaluation.

“Knowing the fair market value is the most important factor in the buying, selling and management of any asset,” said Jamie Lafleur, ARTBnk Founder and Chief Product Officer. “But in the art industry, value remains the most elusive commodity, hidden behind a veil of access and expertise that is impenetrable to most. We founded ARTBnk to bring that information—real-time fair market valuations and financial performance analytics of fine art—to anyone who needs it.”


Photo: ARTBnk

In addition to this transparency, ARTBnk believes that art valuations are not static. It must take into account market conditions and economic trends in real-time, something human appraisers simply don’t have the processing power to do.

But more importantly, the company has made the service simple enough for anyone to use it, whether through the website or on the app. See an artwork you like? Just take a picture, enter a few details, let ARTBnk run its proprietary algorithm and you will get a valuation instantly.

How accurate is it? While ARTBnk doesn’t dictate how much a buyer should pay for an artwork (after all, art is still an emotional purchase), what it can do is reveal how much the artwork is worth and provide as much information so that people can be more savvy when purchasing art. That said, ARTBnk is pretty close to the ball if you go by some recent transactions. An auction of George Condo’s “Blue & White Improvisation” fetched nearly US$2.7 million from an initial estimate of US$1.29 million to U$1.9 million. ARTBnk’s valuation? US$2.9 million. Another one is “Bay Area” by Eddie Martinez which was estimated to fetch between US$100,000 and US$150,000. It was valued by ARTBnk at US$166,875 against its actual sale price of US$156,074.


Photo: ARTBnk

This accuracy and usability are important in a market as massive as fine art. It is a market that generates US$70 billion annually through auctions and up to US$37 billion through galleries. The key to valuation is making sure there is a large enough database that will return a search result when prompted. In 2019, the company was capable of producing valuations for around 75 artists—mostly major ones like Pablo Picasso or Andy Warhol.

Since then, it has vastly increased their coverage and now has a database of over 25,000 artists and up to 98% of auction market sales data. The last part is critical because ARTBnk’s valuation are rooted in public auction sales data, so they are only able to produce information for “tradable artists” i.e. those that have enough public sales data.

Photo: ARTBnk

The expansion of their artists’ database has also translated to the steady increase in usage. During its beta launch, ARTBnk had about 500 subscriptions. Now, ARTBnk reports that it has over 5,000 users ranging from individual collectors, art professionals and financial organizations such as wealth managers or financial advisors. “In the near future, we will expand into additional passion asset categories such as watches, collectible cars, design and jewelry,” said CEO Ethan Vallarino.

Crypto-art is also an area of interest. You’ve probably heard of that U$69 million paid for Beeple’s NFT artwork. ARTBnk is keeping tabs but recognizes that it’s early days for this industry segment. “We anticipate the NFT market to stabilize and continue to grow,” said Vallarino. “Once there is enough consistent public sales data to support valuations, we anticipate adding NFTs to our platform.”