A project by Phillip Buehler and Jennifer Dalton

What do art viewers really think about artists?

ARTSURVEY is Phillip Buehler and Jennifer Dalton's first large-scale survey of art viewers' attitudes and opinions about art and artists. Based on Phillip Buehler's years of experience working in market research at one of the world's premier advertising agencies and Jennifer Dalton's years of experience working at one of the world's largest auction houses, the two artists have developed a survey which will assess artists and their work as though they were consumer brands—which, in the defining sense of the art market, they are. To borrow a phrase from The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard's seminal 1950s expose of advertising methods, artists and their dealers are in the business of "selling symbols to upward strivers."

The survey employs techniques developed by the advertising industry to assess the public's perception of market brands. The surveys list 44 artists whose works have recently appeared at auction and invite responders to rate these artists on each of 24 attributes. The attributes range from the marketing-specific ("distinctive," "speaks to me") to the laudatory ("brilliant," "intelligent") to the catty ("passe," "connected," "pretentious"). 7,000 postcard-sized surveys will appear citywide and a website,, will launch September 24th.

The surveys also collect demographic information on respondents, such as their age, gender and frequency of art viewing. There is also space on the card for respondents to add their own personal favorite artist. Besides having "art value" as the conceptual backbone of our project, the data we collect might be viewed as having "market value" to certain art institutions as well.

Questions that may be answered by our project include, for example:

* Who is the art world's most overrated artist? Who is the most undervalued?

* How do the public's opinions of artists relate to those artists' prices at auction?

* Who is the art world's Most Popular artist? Who has the Best Personality?

* Is artwork just like any other luxury consumer brand?

Artsurvey is an examination of the types of pleasure people receive from visual art; the desires, demands and expectations viewers place on art; the connection between one's relationship to artmaking and one's viewing experiences; and what "value"—in all senses of the word—means to those who love art and to the larger society.

Sophisticated multivariate statistical techniques (such as factor analysis and cluster analysis), developed to analyze market data, will reveal the underlying shape of consumer perceptions of artists. As the data come in, via the website and the return of the surveys, the results will be presented in both high- and low-tech visual formats, using maps, grids and charts similar to those commonly used in advertising agencies when developing strategies and campaigns.

We intend to repeat ARTSURVEY at regular intervals and in different municipalities, continually tracking perceptions and trends in the art world.

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