Over the course of the pandemic, the internet has been our main resource for almost everything, including art. But, in our time at home, what artists have people around the world been searching for? This question was answered by the people of Ken Bromley Art Supplies, a family-run art business in Bolton, who took up the task of figuring out which artists we were seeking out. Their research not only shed light on the interests we share but also led to a series of maps depicting our continent-crossing similarities.
“I’m fascinated by what people Google and what it reveals about us as humans – what we Google is what we care about or are interested in,” Gareth Evans of Ken Bromley Art Supplies told Art Critique in an email. “This sparked the idea. With the majority of the world being in lockdown due to Covid-19, we thought it would be interesting to see which artists were most Googled as a way of measuring who has been the most popular whilst people have been stuck at home. Once we started working on it, we knew it was a really interesting idea.”
To figure out who the world was looking up, the Ken Bromley research team compiled a list of more than 600 artists that included well-known artists from every country, the “all-time greats,” as well as contemporary and emerging artists. After they formulated their list, they then began the arduous process of checking the frequency at which the artists were searched for using Google’s Keyword Planner.
Their research revealed that people from all over the globe had similar artist-related search histories with just over a dozen artists topping the charts in countries around the world. Leonardo da Vinci was the most Googled artist in 82 countries making him the most searched for artist, overall, during the pandemic. Taking the second and third top spots were Frida Kahlo and Vincent van Gogh, respectively, winning in 29 and 24 countries.
“We were quite surprised that only 13 different artists actually won. We think this shows the huge impact the all-time greats have had as they are still relevant and their work is still admired today,” Evans said of their findings. “We were delighted to see Frida Kahlo come in in second place. Although people in the art world know who she is, many people have never heard of her so we think it’s great that this research might help make more people discover her work. It was interesting that Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist, was the number one artist for USA.”
Among other artists who made the list were Artemisia Gentileschi, who was the most searched for in 23 countries. Evans and the Ken Bromley team attributed her popularity to exhibitions focused on the 17th century Italian painter, many of which were rescheduled or postponed due to the pandemic, as well as a Google Doodle featuring the artist on what would have been her 427th birthday in June 2020.
In addition to a surprisingly small cohort of top-searched artists, the Ken Bromley team found Africa to offer intriguing and surprising data, Evans said. North African countries heavily favoured van Gogh while Picasso had a stronghold over those in West Africa. Meanwhile, da Vinci, like much of the world, had a strong hold over the south-eastern regions of Africa.
The Ken Bromley team took their research one step further, using their findings to create a stunning and colourful set of maps showcasing our collective searches from life during the pandemic. The maps exemplify the similarities that can be found between people around the world. So, even during a difficult time that was isolating for many, we’re brought together in unusual ways.
So, who do you think came out on top in your country? Find out, below, through the maps created by the Ken Bromley team.