How to survive in a BIG data world

Beechhouse Media - Fine Art by M.A
Beechhouse Media - Fine Art by M.A


Another week of staying in hotels and early mornings, strings of back to back meetings about cyber-security, and even a couple of meetings about my art and media business expanding in to new territories and an increased interest from a couple of organisations and art brokers, it’s all good but running a business and holding down a full-time “normal” job means that my work days are once again getting longer! My average this week is 17-hours per day, but it’s all good. Really, I keep telling myself it’s all good. Don’t tell me the reality!

I have been travelling a fair bit of the UK recently, local shop owners know me by name in London, and I recognise so many faces on my various tube journeys. I’m writing todays post from my hotel room and just a few hours ago I bumped in to people who have stayed in the same hotel as me on many occasions before, the thing is, none of them work in my area or for my organisation. It seems that there are a group of people in this world that usually end up at the same places, and in between we all do something that is completely different, and totally unrelated. If I were paranoid, I would swear I am being followed, as they would too. All totally weird when you reflect on it, just why do so many unrelated people, people who wouldn’t usually meet, often end up in the same place?

The world of art and technology has also been lively this week, and even though I am involved in that thing they call “Big Data”, I have actually come to realise that no one actually knows what it is. It’s like a hashtag that’s been given to too many projects. So this week I will take you through what even those involved actually think it means. How does this relate to art? My digital portfolio is now a staggering 40 Terabytes. That my friends is big data for personal storage of my artistic creations, but pales in to insignificance when some organisations have to store petaflops of data and mirror it, and back it all up, oh and they need to protect it.

How did I come to have so much data? I have been creating digital art since the 1980’s, and last year I discovered hundreds of floppy disks, zip disks, early USB sticks, and even micro drive tapes for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in the attic, when I fired up an old PC and a Commodore Amiga, I surprised myself as to just how many creations I had made. I am now going through a process of getting those creations backed up on to storage devices, it will probably take me years.


Tate Britain is often in the media for doing great things, and is now to stage one of the biggest shows it has ever organised – an extensive retrospective of David Hockney’s works which are some of the most recognisable, and Hockney is also one of today’s most popular artists.

The show will open on the 9th February 2017, prior to travelling to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and then on to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The show will feature an overview of his career from his most early works to his many portraits of family, friends and himself. In particular there will be a heavy interest in his works featuring landscapes from the Yorkshire Wolds, created in the 2000’s.

Tate’s gallery on Millbank, London, was the place were Hockney, a British born art student, witnessed the Picasso retrospective, visiting eight times, Hockney was influenced in to the possibility of working with many different mediums and styles.

Hockney’s last retrospective was organised by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1988, travelling to Tate in London and New York.

More than 160 works are expected to be at the show, everything from enormous 5-metre oil paintings, to smaller experiments using an iPad.



New York City
New York City - The Art of NYC

The New York City art scene continues to grow, there are more places to see contemporary art in the city than ever before. On March 18th 2016, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will add a further space with the opening of the Met Breuer. This addition will give the museum 75% more space than previously available that can be devoted to Modern and Contemporary works.

With a growing art scene that shows no sign of decline in future years, the Met will need to compete with the many other museums and galleries vying for the public’s attention. The inaugural program includes “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible” opening on the 18th March through to the 4th September.

This inaugural exhibition will be a representation of 197 works in various stages of completion, from the Renaissance to the present. Following on from this then next major group show is a collaboration with the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Department. This is likely to have an even longer historic trajectory and certainly a broader global trajectory.

Whilst all eyes will be initially on the Met Breuer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently preparing a large scale change on Fifth Avenue with a re-installation of its second floor Modern and Contemporary galleries later this year. New works that have not previously been displayed are to emerge from storage. The current displays though remain wonderful, with representations from artists such as Jackson Pollock, Chuck Close, and Ellsworth Lelly.

The Hermitage St. Petersburg
The Hermitage St. Petersburg - well worth a visit



Outside of the USA, one of the world’s greatest private collections of Modern art is to go on display for the first time outside Russia.

More than 250 works put together by Sergei Shchukin prior to the Russian revolution will be displayed in their entirety in October 2016 at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.

Sergei Shchukin had filled his Moscow mansion with some of the finest French impressionist and post-impressionist works ever produced, and creating an orthodox altar in one room with a total of sixteen of Gauguin’s Tahiti paintings.

Out of this hoard, some 50-pieces including works by Matisse, Monet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh, picked up on business trips to Paris, were seized in 1917 after Russia’s October revolution.

Lenin himself signed the decree to expropriate the works, before Stalin scattered the collection to museums in Moscow and St Petersburg, condemning some of the greatest masterpieces of 20th-century art as “bourgeois and cosmopolitan”.

The paintings will go on display in the spectacular building designed by the architect Frank Gehry on 20 October, with the Icons of Modern Art show running until 20 January 2017.



15-Month Program Provides Students with Unique Professional Training for Careers in the Global Art Market

New York – Christie’s Education New York announces the launch of a new Master’s degree program: Art, Law and Business. This significant addition to Christie’s Education’s portfolio of course offerings in New York marks the first opportunity for students to study a cross-section of topics vital to the operation of a major art business. The 15-month program launches September 2016 at Christie’s Education and is already accepting applications.

Véronique Chagnon-Burke, Academic Director, Christie’s Education New York, said: “The overlap between the two seemingly disparate worlds of art and commerce has grown considerably in recent years, as the global art market has expanded and matured. Indeed, the most successful art market professionals in the industry today are equally conversant in matters of art, law and finance. We have designed this new Master’s program with the needs of professionals working at the highest levels of the art world in mind.”

The new Master’s degree builds on the successful foundations of Christie’s Education London’s Art, Law and Business degree, but is tailored for working in the U.S. commercial market. In addition, it provides its students with an understanding of fine art history and terminology, providing a vital background for working with specialists and curators in art-related businesses.

To head the new program, Christie’s Education has appointed Noah Kupferman as Director, Art Law and Business. Kupferman brings a unique combination of real-world experience in both art business and finance to his new role. He has previously served as a popular visiting lecturer at Christie’s Education, leveraging his experience as Christie’s Co-Head of Chinese Works of Art in the Americas as well as his subsequent role as Head of Christie’s Secured Art Lending group in New York.

Candidates for the new Master’s program are expected to come from legal and wealth management backgrounds, as well as from art history and commercial art backgrounds. Upon graduation, students are prepared for roles in auction houses, galleries, art fairs, museums, and cultural institutions, in positions focused on sales, business management, business intelligence and strategy, client services, and marketing. The program is fully accredited by the New York State Board of Regents.

Classes meet at Christie’s Education, 11 West 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan. For more information or to register, visit or call 1-212-355-1501; or email


Noah Kupferman previously served as Christie’s Co-Head of Chinese Works of Art in the Americas as well as Head of Christie’s Secured Art Lending in New York. Noah began his career at Sotheby’s as a specialist in the Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy Department in New York. Subsequently, he spent a number of years working in corporate and private banking with organizations including U.S. Trust, Merrill Lynch, Standard Chartered Bank and The Bank of New York. He has served on the faculty of New York University’s Art Business Certification Program and has lectured at Christie's Education, Columbia University, Brandeis University and elsewhere.


Christie’s Education New York is part of the global family of Christie’s Education. Founded in 1978, Christie’s Education courses emphasize the importance of direct contact with original works of art, and through the use of Christie’s salerooms and specialist staff, enhance students’ exploration of the history of art. Christie’s Education, New York is accredited by the New York State Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education in their capacity as a nationally recognized accrediting agency.

The full-time Master’s Degree programs, M.A. in Modern and Contemporary Art and the Market, and M.A. in Art, Law and Business, are also registered with the New York State Education Department. Other continuing education opportunities include the Certificate in Modern and Contemporary Art in New York, and certificate and module options in Art Business and Collecting Contemporary Art, various short courses, and personalized, bespoke courses.

Christie’s Education short courses are non-degree programs that address a wide variety of topics and run in conjunction with Christie’s auction house. These courses have the same standards as full-time programs, but are designed in various formats, including full-day master classes, evening lecture series, and study trips away from New York.


I remember not all that long ago when I first purchased a digital camera, it was almost 1-Megpixel, and the results I thought at the time were so much better than my previous 35mm camera. Then I traded up, a 5-megapixel beast was the order of the day, and then I traded up to an 8, then 14, then settled for a while on a 36 megapixel behemoth. Despite my initial wow, I quickly started noticing the shortfall of digital cameras, my early models were ok, and the 5-megapixel camera took some really good low light shots, in fact in low light, the 5-megapixel out-performed the 8 and the 14.

Big Data
Small Data can turn in to Big Data Apparently


In those early days of digital photography, manufacturers could only manage to squeeze 2 and sometimes maybe 3 million pixels on the sensors. Nowadays 36-megapixels seem quite normal, and the sensor is around the same size. The issue was that the more megapixels added to a sensor reduces the photosite. The smaller the photosite, the more difficult to create a camera with a high ISO level, and continue to maintain a low amount of digital noise.

The other issue of course is that the file sizes have also increased. Not so much a problem on the fly when shooting, as long as you carry enough spare memory cards. Honestly, these days I don’t just carry memory cards, but I have to carry around a laptop and spare drives to offload photographs during the day of a long shoot in order to keep shooting.

Even a decent reasonably low cost camera can produce better results today than a professional Hollywood camera could just 10-years ago. With higher resolutions, higher framerates, the 3,000 or so photos I took a few weeks ago over the course of one day equated to almost 190-Gigabytes in RAW, I spent most of my time transferring between camera and drives in between locations.

There is of course another problem, the speed of transfer is still on the low side, and it certainly hasn’t kept up with big data. Despite using solid state drives, speeds can still be slow, and the cost despite recent reductions of producing the technology makes them a difficult option to justify for most. The other problem of course is that who can visualise what huge amounts of data look like?

New skills are needed, last week I had a conversation with a gentleman who told me he was a “Data Janitor”, what was this strange roll I asked? Apparently his role was to move data from one server to another to another, each getting bigger, making sure that the systems could offer enough bandwidth, and no mention of having to use a brush.

Floppy Disk
Remember when this was enough?


In my day job I have heard everything that has ever been said about big data. Every crazy myth, and even outright lies, about what it is, where it’s going, and what it isn’t. The stakes for those who do need to engage are huge. How do you protect something that you cannot physically hold or see? The other problem of course is how do you plan for the future, oh, and just how big will files become in the future, and will it really affect me as an amateur photographer, a small business, or someone who just keeps creating word documents. Having just moved my documents folder off my PC on to a hard drive, I noticed that even on my personal laptop, I had over 86Gigabytes of Word documents, that’s like a whole lot of typing. To be clear, I don't spend every minute of my life using Word, but over the last seven or eight years this is my total personal use, not including all of my blog posts that I usually write on my iPad.


Big Data is probably one of the most misused terms ever. For me, big data is a combination of data from many large systems, but increasingly I am thinking about my own strategy for dealing with my own files over the coming years. Something that I never considered when I had a hard disk that was a whole 10-Megabytes. It seemed like I would never fill it. Of course I did, eventually.

Big data itself isn't a new concept at all. Maybe the name has recently arrived, but the concept of managing future storage needs have been evolving for years. The need to analyse lots of data has increased significantly over the last decade, and in the future we will be analysing even more data than we can think of today.

The most frequent misconception over the last couple of years is that big data will change everything. That's kind of what the big data companies want you to believe, but even the need to store more data in the future will be just as gradual as it has been over the last few years. The reality is that storing big data is expensive, and the infrastructure required to store it and upload it at speed isn't as near as many of the big data companies would like you to think.

Essentially broadband around the world will need some heavy investment before we see a real shift, with some parts of the U.K. Still in poor broadband areas, big data only really works when you can expedite what you need to do with it. Think of it as pouring two pints of milk in to a one pint glass, the first pint needs to be poured in to another one pint glass before the second pint is added. Time consuming is a way to describe this. If you haven't got the speed, it makes no difference how much big data you have. Although it's not just an issue in the UK, even Google Fiber and other products aren't as widespread as you might think even in the US.

Many companies suggest that big data is really cheap. It certainly is cheaper today than it was even a year ago, but despite what the salesman suggests, it's not just the cost of hardware and software. You need a team of data janitors, and if you want to do anything with the data, you'll need a team of people to analyse the data and actually do something with it. Otherwise you might as well invest in a bag of bricks.

You need to protect personal data, and it is a good idea to also protect your own personal data. Wether that be your digital photographs, or a million Word documents. When this is implemented in business, staff training and disaster recovery is critical. Talking of disaster recovery, you'll want to have a plan at home too.

I have lost count of how many times I have been told that every problem is a big data problem. Everybody now thinks that they need big data, actually small data has as much of a place. Equally, you might have big data in a small data solution. Take my Word documents, they take as much space as twenty or so high definition films.

Many people have much more data than they imagine. The way to find out if you need big data is to analyse what you have, what you need to retain, and then figure out if your data solution will hold up for a while longer. Having completed my audit of my Word documents I will be investing in yet another hard drive very soon.

I always ask people if they actually need real time data. I get real time data when watching a football match, but usually by around five minutes in to the game, the real time data isn't a definitive outcome of the game. Unless the team in question is pretty poor at playing football, but you could predict the outcome from that scenario without running real time data. Remember that real time generally equates to expensive. One point to also remember is that data is usually relegated as an IT department issue, if you are loosing sales because your data isn't available it becomes a business issue.

If you think that big data doesn't affect you as an artist, you might be right to some extent, for now. By the time you have produced more digital art, taken another thousand photographs, eventually you will need somewhere bigger to store the data. It's not necessarily big data, and I have a feeling that the term big data itself is the problem because no one really knows what it is. It's not a one size fits all solution, but if you are storing any data at home or in a small business, it might be big data to you.

Even Google hasn’t got a clue what big data really means. . When I entered big data in the search box of the all-knowing Google, in the "searches related to the term big data" field at the bottom of the page I received a variety of alternative search terms.

Amongst some of the weirder ones were “teenage”, and “teenage pregnancy”, most likely because of the quote from Dan Ariely,

“Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…”

The moral of this story, don't get too wrapped up in the phrase big data, because what's big?


And finally my Facebook group the Artists Exchange has passed its first thousand members! That is tremendous especially as the group was set up this past December.

The idea of the group is for artists to come together and share other artists work. In turn other artists will share your work and it significantly increases everyone's exposure on different timelines and news feeds around the world. The group is free to join and is a wonderful and vibrant community of artists who like to connect with other artists, collectors, and those who just have an interest.

As a digital artist, most of my business is conducted online. Sometimes I put hours into a piece of work, list it on social media, and the result is sometimes that only three or four people see it. When I share content from others, more often than not hundreds of people see it. It’s not that my content is bad, I have even been asked to let people know when I post content so that they can keep an eye open for it, and it’s not necessarily that other people’s content is better.

Services such as Facebook use algorithms that determine the reach of any particular post. The algorithm seems to favour the sharing of other people’s content, and whenever a group of people comment and like content, suddenly the counter goes up. Facebook likes engagement from users, the more comments the better the reach. Unless you are paying to boost posts, groups are really the best way of increasing your organic reach without breaking the bank.

So far, it seems to be working. Already people are suggesting that they are seeing their reach extend, becoming visible on someone else’s timeline, and in turn becoming visible in new territories, and some artists have sold work through extending their reach and engagement in the group. I certainly have had more sales, but others have too.

It would be great to see you online in the group, if you are an artist or someone who just loves art. You can join in by logging in to Facebook and going here:



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