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Art Valuation Explained
Art valuation is very similar to valuing a piece of real estate. The primary means of determining value is through recent comparables – similar works that recently sold at auction. The other important items affecting value include:
The Artist – Who painting a work usually causes the biggest variation in price. An abstract work by Renee Reyes might be made to look like an original Pollack drip – but the difference in their values is monumental. Jean-Baptiste Isabey, Eugène Isabey is a very well listed artist – you’ll fid tons of info on him & his pieces all over the web. He has numerous works in museums around the world.
Authenticity : I’m assuming this piece is signed by the artist. He typically signed his works at the lower right: E. Isabey and often inscribed a date afterwards and / or title. Authenticity can only be confirmed through paperwork accompanying the artwork that proves its authenticity by a recognized expert, a major auction house bill of sale, etc. I’m assuming this piece is signed accordingly and has additional information that establishes the artist’s identity. It appears correct to the casual eye.
Subject Matter. Artists often paint a variety of subjects over their lives. Also, their styles can change over the years. Collectors tend to value each such type differently. Fortunately, it appears the subject matter of the painting in question is exactly what’s most popular to collectors.
Condition: Condition has a huge impact on art value. The key aspect of condition to collectors is originality. Over the years paintings are often “cleaned” – replace the yellowing varnish & remove dirt & smoke stains. Sometimes, a less than ideal conservator will touch up bumps, bruises & small tears in a painting. This is called “in-painting” and represents what percentage of the artwork is not original. Anything more than 5% inpainting detracts from the value of an antique work. To evaluate inpainting we need a dark room & backlight – later paints fluoresce differently than older pigments. The first examination is for “obvious” damage – we don’t see any on this work.
Size: Generally speaking: bigger is better when it comes to art prices. This painting is considered a “large” work when compared to observed artworks that passed through auction over the years by this same artist.
Importance: Some artworks created by an artist are considered “important”. Perhaps the piece won a big award years ago in an exhibit or represents an important historical scene of phase in the artist’s development . The potential of “importance” adds a treasure hunting aspect to this artwork. While common seascapes by the artist in this size range sell for about 7,000 Euro’s – I found another work that sold for $150,000. Rest assured, that latter work was “important”.
Frame: Frames can add a lot of value to an artwork. An original “period” frame creating by an important maker can actually exceed the value of many artworks. We won’t know this input until further examination.
Medium. Oils are usually the most valuable medium unless the artist was famous for watercolor, drawing, etc. This work is an oil painting & Isabey’s most valuable works at auction were also oil paintings.
Geography – Geography has a big impact on art values. People in a given region often bid up particular works. Harvey Joiner is a great example. Outside of Owensboro? His works have very little value. However, they’re highly valued there. This artist primarily sells in France – the highest prices are realized at French auction houses.
Following are some recent auction comparables for your artwork. What we don’t know without the original auction catalog in front of us is the “condition report” on each of these works as well as any added provenance that enhanced its value.
36 5/8 x 25 5/8 in
Date of Sale: 11/18/2012
Price at Auction (Including Buyers Premium): $9,998
Dimensions : 23 x 39 ½ in
Date of Sale: 10/17/2012
Price at Auction (Including Buyers Premium): $8,132
Dimensions : 47 5/8 x 61 in
Date of Sale: 4/17/2012
Price at Auction (Including Buyers Premium): $42,870
Dimensions : 32 3/4 x 48 3/8 in
Date of Sale: 10/17/2010
Price at Auction (Including Buyers Premium): $17,653
Dimensions : 15 x 21 1/4 in
Date of Sale: 11/11/2007
Price at Auction (Including Buyers Premium): $11,427
Dimensions : 26 3/8 x 40 1/2 in
Date of Sale: 11/15/2006
Price at Auction (Including Buyers Premium): $40,785
Dimensions : 32 1/2 x 48 1/2 in
Date of Sale: 10/25/2005
Price at Auction (Including Buyers Premium): $18,000
Dimensions : 29 1/4 x 36 1/2 in
Date of Sale: 10/27/2004
Price at Auction (Including Buyers Premium): $153,100
Pricing Your Painting
When you hear about prices for artworks, these a number of different terms used. Each means a very different thing when it comes to value, including:
Auction Estimate: That’s what we just reviewed. Auction compsarables from an artist with many pieces brought to auction is the best way to determine its auction value.
Retail Price: Ever watched “Antiques Roadshow”? Sometimes, you’ll hear the appraiser say: “If I had this in my shop I would put a price on it of $X,000”? That’s retail – usually about 40% higher than auction prices to account for retail profit & overhead. It’s not ever what a private seller receives for a work.
Cash Value: There’s also the “cash value” – it’s the one we use for estate purposes with the IRS upon death & the lowest possible price. It represents what a dealer would pay you in about a week after trying to sell this painting.
What should you bid?
Most experienced collectors – unless they’re filling in a specific collection & sometimes in a bidding war to acquire a coveted piece – try to acquire works at or near dealer pricing.
Given the size of the piece, I would estimate this work would achieve $10,000 - $12,000 at auction. In the current economy. Unfortunately, the best values for this artist are achieved in his home country of France. Thus, to calculate dealer pricing we take a $10,000 auction estimate, less 30% (what the auction house receives) less $700 shipping & handling. That means anything at or below $6,300 would be a strong value purchase. It’s at $750 right now. Usually these type of auctions max at bidders at about $3,000 comfort zones. Thus, a $4,000 purchase price might prove to be a steal. We still don’t know about any condition issues, the quality and period of the frames, the date of the work and if it might be considered important amongst Isabey’s production.
I would personally be willing to bid $4,500 on this piece. It’s attractive, large & potentially worth much more.
Hope that helps: good luck!