The Art of Appraising Art: Answers to the most wanted FAQ
14 Nov 2017
If you are a collector and you’re browsing Lot-Art to find your favorite artworks, it is very likely that you came across the term “appraisal". Knowing the ins and outs of this complex matter is important for both aspiring and experienced collectors alike. That’s why we compiled a quick (and simple!) guide to art appraisals and the most important things to know about it.
What is an art appraisal?
Art appraisal is the process of evaluating the value of an artwork.
Why would I need an art appraisal?
Appraisals are needed when you sell or buy valuable artifacts or simply like to estimate the total value of your collection. Some Countries, like the USA, offer tax incentives for collectors, and certified appraisals are required to calculate tax benefits.
Whocarries out appraisals?
Appraisals require a lot of experience on both the art market and art history. Certified specialists at auction houses and art galleries typically do the job.
What influences the evaluation?
Factors that influence the value of an art piece are both endogenous and exogenous. To evaluate the intrinsic characteristics of an object the main features to be taken into account are:
Secondly, many other external factors have their say on the final appraisal:
Curiously enough, the subject depicted in the work (especially in case of paintings, sculptures and engravings) which tends to fall in and out of fashion, also influences the evaluation. Another important question is how the piece compares to other works of the same artist: is it the chef d'oeuvre, the example of a relevant period or subject for the artist or only a minor example of its work?
Exhibition Venus meets Venus at the Galleria Sabauda, Turin, 2016. Courtesy of ansa.it
The appraisal is supposed to reflect the fair market value (FMV) of the piece, in other words, the most reasonable price to pay for it. That’s why for items sold on the secondary market the appraisal is largely influenced by recent hammer prices, which are accepted as the closest to the fair market value.
Be careful not to confuse them with gallery sales results: galleries control the price single-handedly (and actually operate on the basis of their markup), therefore it has nothing to do with FMV. This is why before buying a valuable piece off private hands it is advisable to have a look at its appraisal first: the price which a piece was bought for originally does not necessarily reflect its fair market value.
The auction room at Christie’s, via Christie’s
Looking live at the work is important for the specialists because of the multiple factors that influence the outcome of the appraisal. You can get an online appraisal too, but if the photos do not render some important characteristic you risk ending up with a lower evaluation. Inspecting the back side of two-dimensional works is as important as inspecting the front since they often carry identifying marks like gallery stickers or exhibition labels which can be a source of valuable information.
How long is the appraisal valid?
Free Appraisal by Auction Houses
The best source of free appraisals are auction houses. As their main business is to sell your items at the best price, they will be pleased to provide you with an indication of estimate without cost or commitment of sale. Most auction houses operate appraisals directly at their offices and during scheduled tours to the main cities where they operate. With the development of online auctioning, some Houses allow their consigners to implement appraisals online through their website.
For example, Catawiki has a team of around 180 in-houseexperts, all specialists in their various fields. Here the review process is done entirely online. You will be asked to provide a description of your item, some specifics such as technique, period and signature, and of course you will be asked to provide photos. The experts will read your description and examine your photographs, reviewing your lot for quality and authenticity. Once he has provided you with a free appraisal, it will be your choice to either put the artwork for sale for the pleasure of your wallet or keep it at home for the plesaure of your eyes.
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