Diane Rosenblum – Measure of Art


I make conceptual artworks in the visual language of modern and contemporary artists such as Joseph Kosuth, Richard Misrach, and Damien Hirst. Using auction sales results from the late 1980’s through 2009 obtained from artprice.com, I graph art market data directly into my canvases. The data is legibly presented in line with Edward Tufte’s theories on the graphical display of information. This project is neither parody nor appropriation. Instead, the art and career of the artist in question is the subject matter of my artwork.

There is not one particular way that I approach the work and data of each artist. In Agnes Martin Painting 1989-2004 the data is displayed in a grid, with each square that is not black representing the sale of a painting. Time moves from left to right, while prices rise vertically. While this work clearly references Martin in it’s scale, simplicity of means and the use of the grid, it does not look like any specific painting she made. Richard Misrach Photography 1989 – 2004 at first glance closely resembles some of the prints from Misrach’s Sky Series, yet a closer look shows many elements that are not part of his work such as the numbers surrounding my image and my use of a stretched canvas in place of his laminated photographic paper mounted to a substrate. Takashi Murakami Painting and Sculpture 1998 – 2005 could not be confused with one of Murakami’s works. I have borrowed his color and use of the circle, and the writing in the work is a direct quote from an interview with Murakami in a Japanese art magazine. It translates: “Obsessively I do art marketing in order to survive.”

It’s harder now than it was two years ago to determine the direction of the art market as so many recent sales are in camera. Clearly, though, with the closure of many galleries and the contraction of the economy, less art is selling for less money. From 2006 through 2008 the art market spiked. The sales graphs got harder to put into a composition. On Kawara’s paintings were selling for roughly $200,000 to $300,000 until May 2007 when there were sales for 1.3 and 1.6 million. His market has now come back down. Anne Truitt’s work sold for less than $1000 until 2007, when her 1975 painting Arundel XIV sold for $45,000. I added a panel to my Anne Truitt piece reflecting this dramatic change.

Influences on this project include all the artists in the series, the ideas and practices of conceptual art, the stock market from the 1970’s through the present, and the use of statistics in decision making. The market itself is of mixed interest to me as an artist. Yet to ignore the visual ideas that have value in my time is perilous. I don’t choose my artists by their sales graphs, but instead I mostly respond to their work, and enjoy immersing myself in their ideas.

Few artists integrate financial or statistical models into their artistic process, or make work that relates to business and markets. Some of the precedents are Jeff Koons, Hans Haacke, Louise Lawler, Andrea Fraser, who arranged for a paid sexual encounter with a collector through her gallery, and Danica Phelps, who documented her sales and expenses in her drawings. Loren Madsen uses data from sources such as the US Census Bureau and the Department of Labor Statistics in making sculpture; Komar and Melamid’s series Painting by Numbers was based on statistics compiled from their interviews with people on their preferences in art.

I am one of a number of artists in the San Francisco Bay Area with an awareness of art history using the computer as a vehicle for artistic production. While the computer is simply a tool like a camera or a chisel, its use shapes the character of my artwork and my artistic process. I employ sales databases and graphing tools, and am able to make endless revisions as well as multiples of my works. I push an image forward to completion through as many as ten to twelve iterations, which are much like studies or drawings that move toward a final painting. While this series could be made with a brush and paint, it would not be, or rather, it would have a very different character if it were.


Diane Rosenblum studied Studio Art and Art History at Oberlin College, and has a Masters degree from the Brooks Institute of Photography. She has exhibited internationally in China, Argentina, and throughout the United States and California. Her work is in 20 museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the LA County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, and The Albertina Museum in Vienna, among many others. She is represented by SLATE contemporary in Oakland.