Exploring the Tate Collection Metadata

The Tate have released their collection metadata in an exemplary way here:

https://github.com/tategallery/collection

Let’s explore it using MongoDB, which you can find installation structions for here.

First fetch and upload the JSON data:

git clone https://github.com/tategallery/collection.git
cd collection
find artists -name *.json -exec perl -p -e 's/\n/ /' '{}' \; -exec echo \; | mongoimport --db tate --collection artists
find artworks -name *.json -exec perl -p -e 's/\n/ /' '{}' \; -exec echo \; | mongoimport --db tate --collection artworks

Then in the mongo shell we can explore the artists and artworks:

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
// Artists
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

// List artist movements

db.artists.aggregate(
{$unwind: "$movements"},
{$project: {name: "$movements.name"}},
{$group: {_id: "movements", items: {$addToSet: "$name"}}}
)

// List artist eras

db.artists.aggregate(
{$unwind: "$movements"},
{$project: {name: "$movements.era.name"}},
{$group: {_id: "movements", items: {$addToSet: "$name"}}}
)

// Find artists by movement

db.artists.find({"movements.name":"Pop Art"})

// Find artists by era

db.artists.find({"movements.era.name":"20th century post-1945"})

// Find artists by birth year

db.artists.aggregate(
{$group: {_id: "$birth.time.startYear", artists: {$addToSet: "$fc"}}}
)

// Find artists by death year

db.artists.aggregate(
{$group: {_id: "$death.time.startYear", artists: {$addToSet: "$fc"}}}
)

// count artists by gender

db.artists.aggregate(
    {$group : {_id : "$gender" , number : {$sum : 1}}},
    {$sort : {number : -1}}
)

// Count artists by birthplace

db.artists.aggregate(
    {$group : {_id : "$birth.place.name" , number : {$sum : 1}}},
    {$sort : {number : -1}}
)

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
// Artworks
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

// List artwork subject categories

db.artworks.aggregate(
{$unwind: "$subjects.children"},
{$unwind: "$subjects.children.children"},
{$group: {_id: "categories",
           categories: {$addToSet: "$subjects.children.children.name"}}}
)

// List artwork subjects

db.artworks.aggregate(
{$unwind: "$subjects.children"},
{$unwind: "$subjects.children.children"},
{$unwind: "$subjects.children.children.children"},
{$group: {_id: "subjects",
           subjects: {$addToSet: "$subjects.children.children.children.name"}}}
)

// List artwork categorys and subjects

db.artworks.aggregate(
{$unwind: "$subjects.children"},
{$unwind: "$subjects.children.children"},
{$unwind: "$subjects.children.children.children"},
{$group: {_id: "category-subjects",
           subjects: {$addToSet: {category: "$subjects.children.children.name",
                       subject:"$subjects.children.children.children.name"}}}}
)

// List artwork movements

db.artworks.aggregate(
{$unwind: "$movements"},
{$group: {_id: "artwork-movements",
           movements: {$addToSet: "$movements.name"}}}
)

// Find artwork by category/subject group

db.artworks.find({"subjects.children.children.name":"UK counties"})

// Find artwork by subcategory/subject

db.artworks.find({"subjects.children.children.children.name":"beacon"})

// Find artwork by artist name

db.artworks.find({"contributors.fc":"Andy Warhol", "contributors.role":"artist"})

// Find artwork by movement. Will exclude works with no movement.

db.artworks.find({"movements.name":"Pre-Raphaelite"})

// Find artworks without movements

db.artworks.find({"movementCount":0})

// Find artwork by date. Will exclude works with unknown date.

db.artworks.find({"dateRange.startYear": {$gte: 1900, $lt: 1910}})

// Find artworks without dates

db.artworks.find({"dateRange":null})

Exploring the data it becomes clear that the structure of the metadata is wonderfully regular but some of the content is less so. For example entries in the “artists” data may be attributions to movements rather than individuals, and both movements and individuals may have null gender. Locations in birth and death data can be a town or country name in any language, or a town and country separated by a comma. Not every artwork has a creation date, movements, or subjects.

But this is standard for real-world data, and easy enough to regularise. The community can do this and submit a pull request. What’s important is that this is a high-quality metadata dataset from a world-class art institution. People are already starting to explore and visualise it. See here for a great example:

http://www.shardcore.org/shardpress/index.php/2013/11/06/tate-data-explorer/

Posted in Art History, Art Open Data