How is technology reshaping the art market’s approach to assessing value?
Appraisal Bureau’s new Appraisal Manager of Fine Art, Eliza Hodgson, speaks to art market journalist Riah Pryor, upon the launch of the company’s innovative app.
Your background is arguably in the more ’traditional’ aspects of the art world, both in terms of artworks, institutions, and networks. What innovation do you see underway within these fields?
I can see how at first glance my background as an architectural historian and in the auction and art gallery spaces reads as a ‘traditional’ framework within the art world, but my experiences in each of these fields have been impacted and accelerated by the integration of technology.
So, while innovation and old buildings seem incongruous, technology is integral to architectural history today both in the academic and professional arenas with simplified and less invasive means of data collection, methods of preservation, and modes of education. Innovation in online bidding made it possible for auction houses to survive and thrive during the pandemic and, similarly, the art gallery where I worked embraced technology and social media as a means of championing young artists and engaging a broader socio-economic and age demographic.
That sounds like you feel this wave of tech-fuelled innovation has been underway for some time, is there much left to achieve?
There is definitely continued innovation to come, mainly to simplify the more traditional, and frankly archaic processes, associated with the art world – as evidenced by what we are doing at Appraisal Bureau, with our technology-focused, user-driven approach.
This may be unfair (you’ll appreciate my background in reporting on art crime and working at New Scotland Yard, makes me a bit pessimistic!) but do you agree that the art market has historically been slow to embrace new technologies, particularly in areas such as due diligence, supporting services?
I think this perception comes from the out-of-date and clunky process associated with the art world and the associated services, though where new technologies are integrated thoughtfully it makes a significant impact. Appraisal Bureau was conceived as a solution to a gap in the market for a neutral, simplified, and transparent fine art valuation firm and we continue to employ the latest technologies to meet the needs of our clients and improve the efficiency and utility of our services.
Let’s talk about the forthcoming app – is this a fundamental shift in approach to appraisals or a way to making business-as-usual, more efficient?
The imminent launching of our app is evidence of a thoughtful and forward-thinking solution, simply responding to what our clients want. While the technology of the app itself is not new, it represents how Appraisal Bureau embraces available technologies to develop efficient and cost-effective processes.
The app is but one innovation rolling out at Appraisal Bureau to how we conduct our business – stay tuned!
What’s next for the future of appraising?
There is an increasing need for entirely neutral, third-party valuations for fine art, separate from art advisory, auction houses, or sales, to meet the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), investment committees, and other governing bodies. In the same way that other sectors, such as finance, have separate operations to avoid conflicts of interest, this neutrality needs to be introduced into the mainstream behaviours of the sector.
Eliza Hodgson joins Appraisal Bureau with international experience working at a boutique auction house and galleries in London and Boston. She holds a BA and MA in Architectural History from the University of Virginia and a Masters in Building History from the University of Cambridge. Eliza is USPAP compliant through 2024.
Riah Pryor is an investigative journalist specialising in the relationship between art and law. She previously worked at The Art Newspaper as Art Market Assistant Editor, and was a criminal researcher at New Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit. She is author of the book Crime and the Art Market and continues to write on the sector.