Art Auction Primer

Evaluating art for auction

Here is the unfortunate truth that 90% of the art that is hanging on American walls is virtually unsellable. Of course any piece of art can be thrown out on the lawn for a yard sale or maybe there is a bargain market on Ebay. Everything, of course, is relative to a person’s expectations and situation, but if you cannot reasonably expect to sell the art for at least a $1000, the effort of selling usually exceeds the monetary return.

The decision is sell a piece of art depends not only the expected return from that sale, but also the appeal of the painting to the owner. Regardless of the financial situation, if a collector does not appreciate and/or like the work, then the question is how to dispense the piece of art. Obviously, the value of the piece will influence and determine the options of the owner.

There are five primary criteria for determining the value of painting: artist, medium, size, subject and condition. Of course, the owner could contract the services of an appraiser, but these would be the same criteria used by an appraiser. Although an appraiser may be the most appropriate choice, the owner would we wise to undertake some preliminary research themselves. It does not make financial sense to have an appraiser charge you $200 to appraise a painting worth $100.

The Artist

The most important criteria in determining the worth of a piece of art is the artist who created the work. If the painting is unsigned or the signature is indecipherable, then its value it significantly diminished regardless of its quality and age. It is a common misimpression that an old painting has some intrinsic value. Although it may have some antique value, an old painting is just an old painting.

Researching art has become much easier with the emergence of the internet. Twenty years ago, a person would almost require the services of an appraiser, Today, even an art novice can find out a great deal about art without a great deal of effort. If you know the name of the artist, and you search that name on the internet, and nothing shows up, then it is a pretty good indication that artist has not established a reputation. In the search, the words “art” or “artist” may have to be applied such as “John Smith art” or “John Smith Artist.” Artists without reputation have little market value. If the name search does not yield an artist, it means there is probably no one selling their work. And the reason there is no one selling the art is that there is no one buying the artist.  

Next Page