Last month I wondered how long it would be before Sotheby’s would match Christie’s and raise its buyer’s premium to 25% on the first $20,000 … well not that long. It happened on September 1. The real questions now being raised are that if the auction room is acting on behalf of the seller, doesn’t it have a conflict of interest with the buyer and what is the buyer paying a premium for? I will leave the answers to you.
It was initially reported that an “investment group” purchased Damien Hirst’s platinum and diamond encrusted skull for £50 million ($100 million). In a follow-up report it was noted that Mr. Hirst was a member of the investment group … so can we really say that the piece sold for $100 million when Mr. Hirst is a partner and will be putting up some of the money? The games they play in the Contemporary market. In case you were wondering, the piece was cast from an 18th century skull and the teeth are the only real part.
And … it appears that the Beer sale on eBay was never consummated. It has been reported, in some of the trade newspapers, that the buyer stated that his bid was a “…joke bid” … some joke. But at least I feel there is still some level of sanity in the world, or is there … the same paper reported that the seller has had other six-figure offers! Come on ... let’s just close the book on this one.
Comical Topics and Questions
At the end of many of my newsletters I ask our readers if they have a topic or question they would liked addressed/answered. Occasionally I receive a reply and try to address it in the next issue. At the end of last month’s newsletter I, once again, asked for topics and the reply was overwhelming. Not only did I receive numerous e-mails with interesting topics, some of which had been covered years ago, but I also received a number of real ‘comical’ ones; among those were a few from C.W. who asked:
1. What’s the future of the Miami Dolphins with a 41 year old quarterback ... first, I stopped watching football, in a serious way, after Roman Gabriel retired from the LA Rams -- does that date me or what? Second, I didn't even know that a 41 year old could play football! So I am not going to be much help on that one.
2. He wanted me to announce that the Howard Rehs series of golf lessons are now available on DVD- $2.95 plus $345.00 shipping and handling. That is a real laugh because the only way I could make money on that series is if I charged $345 for shipping and handling ... the last thing anyone would want to pay money for is to see a video of me playing golf, let alone trying to teach it! I think I have played the game 30 times in my life and have an average score of 180. Now that would be a great score in any other game, but in golf people tell me that a high score is bad. I will add that my mother is a golf fanatic and has tried, for years, to get me to take up the game. She even went so far as to buy me a set of Callaway clubs for my birthday last year and I will admit that they are not only real nice, but my son loves using them!
And then there was his question that has some relevance to the art world … ha ha:
3. Blanchard- Cortes- Knight- Stage Deli matzo balls- what do they all have in common? ... the only thing they may have in common is that they all look real nice (but only if you think a matzo ball is a beautiful thing) ... and it should be comforting to know that the first three are low in salt, calorie free, and will not cause indigestion!Great for those low-carb diets!!
Now that we got the humor out of the way, we can move on to some of the more serious topics and questions.
Researching an Artist and Value
One of our readers, M.K., has a work by an artist that was passed down in the family and wants to know: how does an individual go about researching a work by an artist?I have covered this in a number of older newsletters, so I will attempt to give a summary here.
M.K., and many other people we have heard from, are not only puzzled by the lack of free information on the Internet, but the fact that many artists they want to research do not even appear on the Internet.To begin with you need to remember that in order for information to appear on the web, someone has to have entered the information on a web site somewhere in the world. And in order for someone to have entered the available information, the artist in question needs to be of some importance to that person; just because you have a signed work does not mean that the artist, or piece, is of importance in the art world and there may be no available information. However, even if there is information on the web, there is no guarantee that the specific search engines you are using will find that page on a web site or even list it in the first page or two of your search results.I have seen many instances where the information I am trying to get is listed on the 10th or even 15th page.So sometimes, you really need to dig deep.
The first thing we do when encountering an unfamiliar artist is to look through E. Benezit’s Dictionnaire Critique et Documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs[...] a 14 volume series that includes over 170,000 artists (the publisher just recently offered an English version). This dictionary is a great starting point and if the artist is listed, the entry will give you his/her nationality, dates and basic biographical information (another option is Thieme-Becker’s Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Kunstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart[...] a German series that includes over 220,000 listing).Please note that there are often errors in these books.Many of the entries have been repeated from older volumes and need to be updated … but they are great starting points.
If the artist is listed in one of these two encyclopedias, then there is a reasonable chance of uncovering some additional information in one of the many, more specific, artist dictionaries.Today there are art reference books that deal with just about every period from the Old Masters to British Victorian to French Realists to AmericanHudson RiverSchool, etc.While you might find some of these reference books on the Internet, you are more likely to find them in your local major public or museum libraries, where they can be used at no cost.
After you have determined the nationality and period of the artist in question, a search on the Internet should reveal those galleries, dealers and museums who deal in, or display, similar works.Contact these sources and see if any of them have heard of the artist and might be willing to share the information with you.Not only are many happy to help, but some even post biographical information on their web site.Our site currently offers biographies on more than 200 artists that we specialize in.
It is important to remember that while the World Wide Web is a great tool, it is still only a tool and your local library may offer some of the information you just cannot obtain on the Web.
M.K. also wanted to know about appraisals and insurance.I did cover these two items in Volume 25; however I will quickly say that it is important to have your works of art insured and even more important to have a professional appraiser do the appraisal.If you are going to insure a 19th century French Academic painting, you want an appraiser who is intimately familiar with most of the artists from the period, the quality levels of those artists and the condition problems that may arise and what impact they will have on the value.Even if the artist you have is not well documented, someone who has an in-depth knowledge of the period in which the artist worked will be able to relate your painting to other paintings of a similar nature and come up with a fairly accurate valuation.I cannot tell you how many times we have been contacted by people who had a ‘general’ appraiser value the contents of their home and the amounts placed on the works of art had very little to do with their actual values.
And if you are wondering about the cost of an appraisal, it will vary depending on the number of paintings and amount of research required.
Gallery Updates:I am sad to say that we are back on our Monday – Friday schedule … no more short weeks until next summerL.
This month works by the following artists have made their way through the gallery: Guillaume Seignac, Paul D. Trouillebert, Jean C. Cazin, Edouard Cortes, Sally Swatland, John Kuhn, and Gregory F. Harris.
Web Site Updates:We have added, or will be adding, works by the following artists to our web site this month: Eugene Boudin, Jean B.C. Corot, Julien Dupré, Eugene Galien-Laloue, Daniel Ridgway Knight, Edouard Cortes, Antoine Blanchard, Sally Swatland, Holly Banks, and Gregory Frank Harris.
Next month:We have many other suggested topics I will get to, including: When do you sell a work?Paying for a work of art?Selling or Consigning a work, etc.