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Why Museum Shows Matter

“The only way to understand painting is to go and look at it. And if out of a million visitors there is even one to whom art means something, that is enough to justify museums.” 

- Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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Art collectors know that loaning their work to institutions boosts the value of their collection and that buying work by artists who have participated in previous or upcoming shows carries an inherent value. Participating in a museum exhibition generates invaluable publicity and public interest for the artist, often acting as the catalyst for collector interest, leading to gallery sales. Even established artists with a following can gain new momentum after a museum show. The fact of the matter is that a museum show of any kind will undoubtedly raise the price of art while promoting the artist’s reputation.

Phillips’ Auction House’s digital team partnered with Articker, founded in 2014 by father and son duo Tomasz and Konrad Imielinski, to create the platform offering insight into the dynamic contemporary art market, spanning emerging artists, mid-career artists, and blue-chip masters. 

Recently the team at Articker -- the first technology platform that aggregates real-time, open-source data on modern and contemporary artists and artworks -- analyzed more than 35 museums, more than 1,400 solo shows, and more than 9,000 artists in group shows, since 2017, to help me understand the direct impact of museum representation. The proprietary data Articker provided reveals how on average, a solo show has the greatest impact on an artist’s media index, a score that’s used to rank artists based on the “sense of value” of their work. 

The more than 9,000 artists featured in group museum shows since 2017 received a minimal “lift,” compared with the impact of solo shows. However, participating in museum biennials can provide a massive boost for artists. The Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A. 2018, along with Whitney Biennials in 2017 and 2019, helped to significantly propel artists. 

For example, the career of Salman Toor, a gay, Pakistani-born, New York-based artist, has rocketed since his solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Phillips’ Articker also measured the “lift factor,” which is relative to each artist's own career, and thereby not primarily a ranking. Toor has the highest museum lift since 2017, compared to any other artist in his cohort who has also had solo museum exhibitions. 

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Additionally, Kenny Scharf rose to prominence in the East Village art scene during the 1980s, alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, but being selected for the 1985 Whitney Biennial was a major breakthrough. Over the decades, he’s participated in museum shows throughout the world, and his work is in the permanent collections of the Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach; The Jewish Museum, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum, New York; among many other museum and foundations.

Chase Contemporary and its stable of artists are no strangers to museum exhibitions. In 2004, the State Russian Museum featured Sheila Isham’s dazzling color abstractions in a 50-year retrospective that celebrated the global reach of the American artist. Isham’s work is in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; among others.

Chase Contemporary and its stable of artists are no strangers to museum exhibitions. In 2004, the State Russian Museum featured Sheila Isham’s dazzling color abstractions in a 50-year retrospective that celebrated the global reach of the American artist. Isham’s work is in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; among others.

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Further, Copenhagen-based watercolor and ink artist Ole Aakjær (b. 1962) quickly gained international recognition after his first solo exhibition sold out. Many subsequent shows in Montreal, Oslo, Paris, and London, sold out, securing permanent gallery representation in Copenhagen, New York, Paris, and Montreal. Demand for his work is poised to spike again, with upcoming solo museum exhibitions: Alter Ego at the Chinese Contemporary Art Museum in Chongqing, China, and The Babushka Exhibition at the Vejle Kunstmuseum, Jutland, Denmark.

In nearly every case, no matter the type of art or artist, increasing values of artwork can be traced to relevant and recent museum exhibitions. The purpose of these shows is not only raise the profile of an artist, but to bring together a large portion of work to create a story and to involve the public. Whether the viewers are collectors, or simply admirers, everyone has a desire to be a part of these stories. The greater the exposure – being shown and seen, at any level – the more it will permeate and (hopefully) correlate to a rise in value.