Monday, August 04, 2008

"Quantification has been almost totally absent from art history"

Today's New York Times has a story on University of Chicago economist David Galenson and his attempts to import "quantitative methods" to the study of art history.

Among his ideas is a ranking of 20th century artworks by the number of times they're reproduced in art history textbooks (mentioned once before here). Picasso's “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" comes in at no. 1. Vladimir Tatlin’s “Monument to the Third International” is no. 2. Philosopher Arthur Danto is quoted as saying "I don’t see the method as anything except circular."

Felix Salmon says Galenson gives too much weight to "one-hit wonders": "If you want to represent a Johns flag or a Warhol Marilyn, you have a few to choose from, so no one painting is likely to make the Galenson list. On the other hand, if you want to represent Tatlin, you're basically forced to go with that model: there's nothing else."

More here from lawprof Larry Ribstein.