Updated: Feb 27
The world of fine art is a strange land to most and especially when it comes to its resale and its performance on the fair market. The most common question I’m asked is, “What’s my art worth?” And, it’s generally one of the most difficult things to answer.
There are so many factors, but first and foremost is the artist. I hate to say it, but 99 times out of 100 a name is more important than the work and its execution. It’s kind of sad to me. I have seen amazing desert landscapes, by an unknown of “unlisted” artist sell for a few hundred dollars, and a poorly-executed desert landscape sell for tens of thousands by the right name.
What makes a name or A-listed artist? It’s an artist who has consistent auction records or a solid trend of performance when resold on the open market. Supply and demand are definitely factors too, but those resale trends show the art collector, dealer and connoisseur that they are making a sound investment.
The asking prices at a gallery or an online outlet rarely influence the resale ability of a work of art. I’ve seen Picasso lithographs, Salvador Dali prints and Andy Warhol serigraphs that have sold for $30,000 to $50,000 at local galleries realize a fraction both at local and international auctions. There was an implied investment value by the galleries, but the secondary market often proves otherwise. Factors need to be considered, such as how many editions were created of the same piece, was the work executed before the death of the artist and is it what the artist was known for? A great name may not mean much if it is a tired piece that was reissued hundreds of times.
Take Salvador Dali’s limited edition etching entitled "Autumn." Galleries still offer this piece for $3,000 to $5,000. However, at Estate Auctions, both Live and Online, you'll see an average of $200 - $400. At a recent auction with 7,500 approved online bidders from 62 countries and heavily advertised, the same piece brought $275. This was and is the fair market and what the world deemed it to be worth. I saw another online auction that sold in Tampa for $120. And it’s not the economy. It’s supply and demand. There’s a large supply, several hundred have been produced and not a piece that’s in demand. People see Dali and remember hearing multi-million dollar record sales and think, wow, what a great investment.
Many people buy art because it speaks to them, but if you’re looking to buy art as an investment, do your homework. You might discover a nice find. One of my favorite things is when I get to tell a consignor they have a very valuable painting that they inherited. A lesser-known artist to the laymen, but to the art world a little piece of gold. I call these lottery tickets. You may have one, so I will not discourage anyone from finding out if you have that “A List” artist.
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