Acclair Art Valuation

Brain wave scanning art appraiser.

  • Dates: 2009
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Role: Developer
  • Collaborators:
    • Luther Thie
    • Eyal Freid
Acclair Art Valuation 1
Acclair Art Valuation 2
Acclair Art Valuation 3
Acclair Art Valuation 4
Acclair Art Valuation 5

Acclair Art Valuation is a service that uses neural feedback to gauge relative value of different works of art. Subjects wear a brain wave scanning system that captures 9 axes of data as they look at various art works around the gallery. By tagging artworks as they are viewed, information can be gathered about what specific brain states subjects were in when they viewed various works. The captured data is analyzed and a personalized report is generated for each individual with statistics about which art works activated certain responses in their minds. With enough samples, inferences can be made about the affects of certain types of artwork on different people, and thus their relative values.

This project required an integration of many different sensing element and software components including RFID, a database, email services, the brainwave scanner, and a user interface. The RFID system and brainwave scanner are connected via Bluetooth and are the sole subject inputs during the session. Before the session begins the subject is given a short test to provide a baseline measure of their artistic preferences, and this user data is stored in the database. Once the subject tags an artwork with RFID, the brainwave scanning system starts recording all of their mental states when viewing that particular artwork. After the sample period the subject progresses to the next work in the gallery. At the end of the session, the data is analyzed from the database and collected into a report that is emailed to the subject. The connecting elements for all of the hardware, the user interface, and all of the backend software was developed with Adobe’s AIR runtime.

Artworks are unique among objects in our society because they operate as cultural markers in the public realm, and yet are subject to valuation within an international market system that associates that cultural property with often exceptionally high currency values. Factors which determine a work’s value may include the subject, age, and medium; as well as the historical reputation of its maker, the prominence of a certain collector by whom it is or has been owned, or its relationship to current fashions of taste. The value of art is generally set by an elite group of socially sanctioned arbiters – dealers, collectors, curators, critics and other interested parties – who also have the power to manipulate that value in the services of private agendas. These machinations occur behind the scenes, and the general public is usually unaware of them.

The Acclair Art Valuation Service, powered by its Neurocapital(tm) system, offers a more democratic means of placing value on art. By observing viewers’ responses to individual artworks, Acclair can determined value based on scientific methodologies drawn from cognitive science. Unlike traditional cognitive research, which has generally focused on the perceptual and affective effects of art, Acclair offers a new way to calibrate the market valuation of artworks based on quantifiable data gleaned from electroencephalographic measurement and analysis. The Acclair Art Valuation Service addresses the imperative to respond to social and cultural realities through art by assessing the financial value of art objects from the point of view of cognitive science.

The Acclair Art Valuation Service presents the public with a clear, informative way to understand the empirical value of an artwork. Acclair clients such as curators, collectors and auction houses can utilize the service to obtain hard data in support of their acquisition choices; to monitor the public’s responses to art objects on display; and to predict future trends. The unbiased readings Acclair offers can be used to tailor displays to specific audiences, and to conduct valuable market research, thereby positioning institutions more favorably in the eyes of the communities they serve. Over time, Acclair findings could lead to a broader understanding of art’s ability to affect individual perception, as well as its larger social role.



  • Van Abbe Museum