Sotheby’s announced today that it has acquired the Mei Moses Art Indices, a data-mining art market analytics tool that judges strength of the art market against other asset classes. It does so by looking at works that have been sold at Sotheby’s or Christie’s more than once, and tracking the changes in purchase value over time. The indices will be renamed Sotheby’s Mei Moses.
The database contains information on 45,000 works of art that have been sold at auction more than once; about 4,000 of these are sold again each year. The information gleaned from the findings is then used to compile a World All Art Index, as well as indices for seven specialized divisions, that collectors and market analysts can use to determine how the market is performing compared to other asset classes.
Mei Moses Art Indices was founded by former NYU professor Michael Moses and Jianping Mei, a professor at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, and introduced in 2001. It’s often referred to as a leading source of information regarding the overall strength of the art market—despite the fact that it only looks at sales of specific works sold at just two auction houses. The TEFAF report indicates that 53 percent of all sales occur from galleries or in private deals (some of which are orchestrated by auction houses, of course).
For Sotheby’s, it’s the latest move in a year of surprising hires and high-profile acquisitions. Since buying Art Agency, Partners for a figure that could be as large as $85 million, in January, it has continued to expand the ways in which an auction house can operate. In addition to betting big that an auction house can benefit from having an in-house advisory company, it will now have an in-house data service to provide hard-number analytics alongside the expertise of its advisors and specialists.
“The collecting community is increasingly sophisticated and, in many cases, looking to analysis to understand the overall market, individual artist and category trends, the value of their collections, as well as gain insight into the timing of their consignments and purchases,” Adam Chinn, Sotheby’s executive vice president, said in a statement. “We are very happy to be in a position to provide collectors with proprietary information tailored to their needs, while at the same time helping us identify and examine trends that can inspire further innovations within Sotheby’s to better serve an expanding client base.”
The press release also noted that Sotheby’s will now have “unique access” to the Mei Moses findings—which means, presumably, that the only people privy to this information will be Sotheby’s employees and their clients.