Monday, March 31, 2008


Donna Nield, Empty Trees, 2008 acrylic on vellum, 8" x 10"

On the first Saturday in May all of the movers and shakers want to be in Kentucky. They come here to experience the horses, the hats, and the juleps. But sometimes Kentuckians find themselves in other places in May. This year, the Kentucky Derby will be on May 3 and, if on that day you find yourself in New York longing for a taste of the Bluegrass then head over to Smack Mellon. Smack-Mellon's mission is to "nuture and support emerging, under-recognized mid-career and women artists" by providing exhibition space, studio space, and equipment as well as offering six yearly fellowships. This year, Smack Mellon will be hosting the Kentucky Derby Party and Art Auction Benefit on Derby day. $250 will admit two adults and you are guaranteed to leave with a work of art (determined by a random drawing). The variety of artists is amazing at this year's auction and because the works are by emerging artists many will be a good investment. There are several Kentucky artist showing their works including Louisville's own Anne Peabody and Letitia Quesenberry who I blogged about last week. Smack Mellon is located at 92 Plymouth Street in Brooklyn.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Letitia Quesenberry received her BFA from the University of Cincinnati. She has had individual shows at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn New York, Gallery Hertz in Louisville, and Zephyr Gallery in Louisville. In fact, her work is being shown at Zephyr until March 29 (that is only two more days!). It is funny because this artist has shown her work on three other occasions at Zephyr and I have failed to see it until now. In fact, I had never even heard of Quesenberry before this year’s Zephyr show. And I am really involved in the art scene. I love gallery openings and I like to keep up with what is going on in the local market by visiting new shows. Somehow, this artist slipped by me…and I am sorry for it. Looking through Quesenberry’s portfolio from the last few years, I am stunned by her range, her changing focus, and her ability to stay true to her own vision.
In her current show, Quesenberry places figures against a stark ground. It is as if they have just walked in front of a movie screen with the projector blasting on them. The monotone background provides a foil for the shadows as well as contrasting the detailed sketches of the figures themselves. The artist’s use of color is also minimal and her style speaks to what is going on in the larger art market.Right now, minimalism is hot. At Christie’s on March 18-21, the Asian sale posted the highest figures ever boasting $80,068,489. And Asian, if you will recall, is a more streamlined, minimal style. If you look around, many of today’s successful artists are focusing more on minimalism and subtlety. In Louisville, that style is a little bit harder to find because collectors here tend to be more traditional. However, if your taste does run to more contemporary styles then Quesenberry’s work might be for you. Compared to many other cities in the U.S. we are really lucky to have an art market that is affordable and diverse.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


On March 19, Federal Investigators indicted seven people living in Chicago for dealing in fake art. The fake prints, sold primarily through ebay, included works said to be made by Picasso, Chagall, Warhol, Miro, Calder, and Lichtenstein. The charges were made after a raid in January of the Kass/Meridian Gallery on the Gold Coast.

Two of the dealers, Michael Zabrin and James Kennedy worked in Chicago. While Zabrin provided “certificates of authenticity”, Kennedy forged the signatures and then sold them at art shows throughout the country. Also charged were dealers Patrizia Soliani of Milan, Italy and Miami Beach and Gallery owner Jerome Bengis of Coral Springs. In the same indictment, Leon Amiel Jr., an art broker was charged for placing “shill” bids on the art on ebay to raise the prices. The fact that Amiel was involved at all makes the story even more alarming.

Leon Amiel, Sr. (Leon Amiel, Jr’s father) was the publisher of Modern American Art and was a major force in the art world. He owned Amiel Book Distributors Corporation and Leon Amiel Publishing. It is said that he was friends with Chagal, Dali, Miro, and Picasso. Before his death in 1988, investigators had already begun to look into Amiel’s dealings but when he died his company was taken over by his wife and two daughters. On March 2, 1992, the government filed a thirty count indictment against the Amiel family charging them with mail fraud in connection with the sale of fake prints.

Fake art, forged signatures, and shady dealers are the nightmare of every art collector. But you can take steps to protect yourself and to make sure your investments are what they are purported to be:
1. Ask the dealer for the provenance of the piece. That is, ask them for a documented history of the item. Once you have it follow up. If a gallery is listed call it and ask them what they know about the piece and how they acquired it. Keep doing this until there is no one else to call.
2. Don’t let a dealer appraise your works. It is a conflict of interest. They want you to buy the piece and that, in itself, is a conflict to remaining unbiased.
3. Do your research. If any of the thousands of people throughout the world who purchased the fakes mentioned above had done a quick internet search, they would have discovered that fake prints by these artists have flooded the market for years. Perhaps this would have raised a red flag.
4. If you are buying a very expensive piece, particularly if it is old, try to find out who the expert is in that area and contact them. Have them look at the piece and pay them for their expert opinion (you won’t be sorry!)
5. Hire an appraiser! An appraiser has an extensive knowledge of the market. Although we are not authenticators, we do have expertise, we are excellent researchers, and we are likely to uncover things you would not have expected. Most importantly, we are an unbiased party. We are paid if the item is deemed to be authentic or fake.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


From now on, Friday will be appraisal day so send pictures of your paintings to and who knows, maybe you will find a fortune in your attic!

I am doing this because I have had many requests from the public to offer this service. Although our local paper runs an appraisal column, it is nationally syndicated and does not focus on the needs of our region.
Please include the following information when sending in an appraisal request:
Your full name, address, email (only your first name will be published)

Clear photograph of the piece (please make sure it is not too big or too small)
Title of piece
Artist (if known)
Medium (oil on canvas, pastel, watercolor, lithograph etc.)
Close up of the signature (if any)
Size of image
Condition (is there a rip, water damage, faded spot, paint flaking etc.)
How much you paid for the piece
How you acquired the piece
I will only pick one piece per week so please be patient if you do not see your artwork right away.

Monday, March 24, 2008


The bird who asked me is I was a child

The Armory Show, New York City. A place where hot, living artists and contemporary galleries show artwork to the public. The tenth annual exhibition of the Armory Show runs from March 27-March 30 and costs $30 for general admission or $10 for students. To be considered for this show, galleries must submit an application which is then reviewed by a group of internationally recognized gallerists. This year’s committee hails from Stockholm, Paris, Berlin, Los Angeles, New York, and London.
But even if you plan on attending (and thousands of people do plan on it) will you be buying? With the unsteady financial markets making investors squirm will the contemporary art market waver as well? According to Art Tactic, “Art Market Confidence Indicator has dropped sharply (by 40%) from the last reading in May 2007. The confidence in the art market suffers on the back of a sharp drop in respondents’ confidence in the Western economies, triggered by the credit crisis in the final quarter of 2007.”
Despite this warning, artists are still painting, drawing, sculpting, and creating works that will be for sale at the Armory Show in a few short days. And if buyers are not buying as quickly or willing to spend as much money as they were last year then bargains will surely be aplenty.
A list of galleries that were accepted into this year’s even can be found here.
The Armory Show 2008 Opening Day takes place Wednesday, March 26th for invited guests.
Opening Hours: Thursday, March 27 - Saturday, March 29 Noon to 8 pmSunday, March 30 Noon to 7 pm
The Show will be at Pier 94, which is located on Manhattan's far West side on the Hudson River. Directions can be found here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Beginning last year, eggs, nests, and birds, started to show up again in popular culture. From wedding themes to knick knacks for the home these items have helped spur a new area of collecting in art. Popular images include prints like the one on the left from 1890 which is priced for $25 to the oil on canvas on the right which measures 6" X 8" for $100 and was completed by a contemporary artist named Thaw Malin. Either way, you can buy an interesting depiction of a an age-old subject matter for a price that is reasonable and likely to stay in fashion and rise in value as the years pass.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Choosing a good appraiser can be tricky. The truth is, anyone claiming to appraise personal property can do it...legally. At least until the end of the year. At that time, the IRS is going to require all appraisers to take USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice). Until now, it was only highly recommended. So, when choosing an appraiser ask them if they have taken USPAP. Beyond that, finding a qualified appraiser is up to you. Here are a list of questions to ask:

1.) What sort of background do you have in art? (a degree in art is nice or years of gallery experience or auction experience)

2.) Did you attend appraisal school? (I went to NYU and got a certificate in Personal Property Appraisal...this is the recommended course by the Appraisers Association of America but there are some other good ones out there)

3.) Are you a member of an appraisal society?

Number three is very important because memberships in appraisal societies indicate that the appraiser has been held to a certain standard. They have had to take tests, submit appraisal reports or both. It also indicates that they are up-to-date on what is going on in the appraisal world i.e. changes to the law (just this year the IRS changed some of the guidelines for donation appraisals) I am a member of the Appraisers Association of America (

Monday, March 17, 2008


Louisville's art scene is thriving. There are many galleries throughout the city and new ones emerging all of the time. One of my favorite galleries is B Deemer Gallery located on Frankfort Avenue in Crescent Hill. Brenda Deemer is the owner of B. Deemer. She has been working with fine art since 1972 and established her gallery in 1990. According to their website, approximately 50 living artists are represented by the gallery and half of those live in the Ohio Valley region. One of my favorite things about B. Deemer is Brenda's ability to pick art that connects with her viewers. Tosca on Shelby Street (image shown above) is an oil pastel measuring 26" X 36" and is priced at $3600 by Martin Rollins. A unique, Louisville scene, this painting caters to those of us who drive the streets in this area, who watch the sun rise over downtown as we drive into work, or feel a special connection with the architecture of this city. So much of the time those of us who live in medium or small sized cities don't see our lives and our surrounding represented in art. Throughout the decades our greatest artists have eventually left our cities and moved to New York or California to continue their art education or to make it to the big time. Today, perhaps more than ever before, Kentucky's artists are seeing the importance of their relationship to their city and their state and they are sticking around. With the advent of the internet this does not mean that they won't reach a larger audience. It does mean, however, that although the art is great the prices are not high (something that can rarely be said for art in New York). It also means that Louisville's art buyers are able to purchase a piece of their own history.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I am often asked by new collectors how to find attractive, affordable art. The answer is to look for talented students. At the end of the year MFA art students present their final thesis show. At some universities that art is for sale…at bargain prices. The year I graduated from Centre College, one student’s work was so popular it sold out in a single day.
Another option is to look for shows exhibiting work of “emerging artist.” This season, one such show is New Blue- Emerging Artists: First Kentucky Biennial at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville. According to their website, many of the artists in that show are recent college graduates and new university faculty members. In other words, these are qualified folks who are still making a name for themselves. I can not think of a better way to buy.
A couple of years ago, I purchased a piece of art from Kopilot on a whim. I walked into the store for the first time and they just happened to be having a opening that night. I saw a small piece of art for $75 and I fell in love with it. In a matter of minutes I discovered that the artist was Louisville’s own Kathleen Lolly. Today, Lolly’s pieces are still relatively inexpensive but they have gone up in value. I noticed that some of the pieces which are similar in style, size, and medium to mine sell for around $200. Lolly’s work is still shown at Kopilot. You can also view her work on her website or at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in the aforementioned show through May 24, 2008. There are also a lot of other really great artists exhibiting in that show and if you are looking to begin your own collection this may be the place to start. The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft is open from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday –Friday and 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


When most people think of the Bloomsbury Group the first name that comes to mind is Virginia Woolf. Bloomsbury was, in fact, the name given to a group of intellectuals composed of writers, intellectuals, and artist’s that met at Woolf’s home. The main artists associated with the group were Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, and Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell. The group met at Woolf’s home to discuss everything from politics, design, art, writing, costume design, and dramatics. Their meetings focused on using their talents to express their beliefs about the way they led their lives. Lives, that were deeply affected by the First World War and the Spanish Civil War.
I was first introduced to the art of the Bloomsbury Group when I was hired by an estate to appraise a large collection of paintings by Grant, Fry, and Bell. As I began to research and study the group I was surprised that the names of the artists in this group were not as well known as their literary counter-parts. Despite this, I was please to find out that there was at least one major dealer in England that specialized in the group as well as a growing number of collectors. I felt like I had come across one of the most important unknown collections in America. Then, earlier this year, I opened up Domino magazine and there, on the pages, was an entire article dedicated to decorating in the style of the bohemian Bloomsbury Group. A few weeks later, my Pottery Barn catalog arrived and again, there was a whole section devoted to Bloomsbury styles and fabrics. I was taken aback and thrilled. I also wished that the client from the estate I appraised had been around to see the world’s rediscovery of such an important style.
You may be wondering at this point how this affects the market. Only time will tell but when a major home retailer like Pottery Barn picks up on the style it is only a matter of time before people will be scrambling to find out everything there is to know about those behind the style. It is likely that the increased interest in the Bloomsbury style will increase interest in Bloomsbury paintings as well. In fact, that may already be happening. On November 6, 2007, a piece by Duncan Grant was sold at Sotheby’s London. The painting on ceramic tile entitled Still Life, measuring 24.4” X 8.66” was estimated to sell for $8,399-$12,510 but ended up selling for $19,550. At Christies in October of 2007 Grant’s watercolor, Study for panel to decorate the ‘Queen Mary’ sold for well above its auction estimate ($1031-$1444) and achieved $3353.
If this peaks your interest, it is not too late to get in on the action. On March 18 of this year, the oil on canvas entitled, Still Life with Jug and Pear measuring 20.47” X 30.31” will be auctioned at Sotheby’s London. The estimate for this piece is $7,986-$11,980.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Recently, I have noticed that some of my clients collect art because it makes them feel proud of their heritage. It's funny but that fact had not occurred to me until lately. Whether the piece is $1M or just $1, the connection to who they are as part of a race, gender, social class or as a part of a geographical location makes people feel more connected to the history of their people.
Up for auction on April, 11, 2008 at Stuart Holman in Cincinnati are three paintings by the Kentucky Appalachian artist/poet, Henry Faulkner. Faulkner was born in 1924 and soon became a ward of Kentucky welfare agencies. He had a difficult and tramatic childhood which translated in adulthood to hard partying and eccentric behavior. Today, this artist's work is highly sought after by Kentucky collectors.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Should I sell my work at auction or to a dealer?

When you sell your work you should expect to get the Fair Market Value for a piece. The IRS defines Fair Market Value in IRS Publication 561 as follows: “The price that property would sell for on the open market. It is the price that would be agreed on by a willing buyer and a willing seller, with neither being required to act and both having reasonable knowledge of all relevant facts.”
Confused? Don’t be. Fair Market Value is not the same as Retail Value and when you think about it logically it makes sense. When a private client approaches a dealer with a piece of art the dealer will offer them a certain amount of money. Once that piece is sold to the dealer the dealer will then mark the piece up and resell it. The price that they sell it for in their gallery is the Retail Value.
If you go to auction, bidders are competing against one-another until someone gives up and someone wins the piece. Usually, this price is also less than what a buyer would pay in a retail setting (many dealers buy pieces at auction as well). At auction, however, you will have to pay what is called a “sellers premium” which is usually around 10% plus charges for insurance and illustration.
The plus side of an auction (especially with a well-known auction house) is that it is well-advertised and if a piece is highly desirable, the price may go well above the estimate. The plus side of using a dealer is knowing the piece will be sold and not having to pay a premium.
Below are examples of the work of one artist, Alice Brown Chittenden and the prices achieved at auction and the prices a dealer would be willing to pay.
Cincinnati Art Galleries estimates that they would pay between $5,000-$10,000 for a work by this artist. Obviously they can’t name an exact price because a lot of the value is determined by subject, quality, condition, size, m
edium etc.
1.At auction, the highest price ever achieved for a Chittenden work was $16,500 but that was in 1992 and the painting was 24”X 40” for one of the best examples of her style entitled Chrysanthemums. (seen in the first picture).

2. A better, more recent, and more likely auction figure was the June 2007 sale of the oil on canvas Bouquet of blue Nemophila measuring 10 X 14 which sold for
3. The April 2007 sale of the oil on canvas Zinnias in an Oriental Vase measuring 25” X 20” which sold for $3,500.
In the case of the first auction the painting was estimated between $15,000-$20,000. Even if a dealer was to offer the low amount, the seller would have come out ahead because after fees the seller made less than the low estimate.
In the case of the second auction the painting was estimated between $3000-$5000 so the seller probably came out ahead selling at auction.
In the third case, the estimate was $1200-$1800. In this case, the seller again came out ahead.

The key to selling any artwork no matter the price is to find out where the style or the artist is most popular and then pursue sales in that location. It is also important that you find out as much as you can about the art that you plan on selling so that you have the best possible chance of speaking with authority when you are ready to sell.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Because I am an appraiser people are always asking me what kind of art I like and what kind of art I collect. Sometimes these are two very different things. While some people love Renaissance Art and some people love Modern Art I tend to be all over the place. For me, art has to be taken in context. Some art is appropriate for my house and some is more fun just to study and talk about. If I have a strong love or hate reaction then I will likely enjoy researching it. Researching the history of a piece is what makes me love it. When I lived in London in 1997-1998 I got to see Damien Hirst's pieces in the flesh (pun intended). They repulsed me so I started doing research. In the process I was introduced to the other Young British Artists and I was hooked. Now, whenever I visit the Tate Modern I am always hoping to see the latest YBA work. On the other hand, some work is just visually stunning. I have to admit that I am also a sucker for good design. The internet has made a wide variety of art accessible and I, for one, am enjoying it. Just yesterday, I found the illustrations of Wendy Wonsuk Lee. Witty and well-designed this artist's work really has everything going for it.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Framing and/or preserving your art is one of the best ways to protect the value. Here are some tips when visiting your local framer:

1. Mounting:
If you image is on paper there are different ways to attach it to the backing board:

a: Museum mounting- This is really the best way to mount a high quality image. The framer uses a linen tape (acid-free) and creates "hinges" or gently tapes around the edges. The drawback is that over time you will probably see some wavyness (because the paper is not fully mounted to the board) which has never really bothered me but does bother some.

b: Dry Mount- A thin piece of tissue is placed between your image and the mounting board and then they are pressed together in a dry mount press. The tissue melts and adheres to your image and the board binding them together while the press flattens everything out. New technologies have made this process better (there is now heat release tissue) but all of that goo is not that great for valuable images.

c. Spray mount- This is the stuff you can buy in the craft store but it is often used for framing. The spray is in an aerosol can and the material is definitely not good for your art and almost impossible to remove without a professional restorer.

2. Backing Board and Matboard

Have you ever noticed a brown line around your image where the mat was once located or has your image developed a brown/yellow color or strange brown spots? All of these things indicate that your image has absorbed acid. You can fix this through restoration but you can avoid future damage by following the advice below.
Make sure you do not use, cardboard, posterboard, wood, or styrofoam. Acid-free matboard or acid free foamcore is the best option and it will help preserve your image for many years.
3. Space
If your image is anything other than a poster you do not want the glass to touch it. There are a variety of reasons for this. If you have a photograph and a drop of water gets under the surface of the glass (from cleaning) it will spread over the entire surface of the photo. If the image is a pastel, the glass will smear the image etc.
To keep glass away from the image use matboard or spacers. Matboard is usually only 1/16" thick. This thickness will not be enough to protect the art. To compensate, you will need to use a double mat to ensure proper spacing or a thicker mat (they are available at a higher price). The other option is a spacer. Placed inside the lip of the frame, a spacer acts as a little shelf for the glass, keeping it away from your artwork.

Remember, a good appraiser always checks for condition. Quality framing is a tool you can use to ensure your artwork retains its value.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Snow Scenes

Posting will be light today...unlike the snow.

Up for auction on March 12 Victorian & Traditionalist Pictures at Christies (London, South Kensington) is this Thomas Sidney Cooper (1803-1902) watercolor and pencil on paper. It is signed and dated "T. Sidney Cooper. 1883" The estimate for this piece is 3000-5000 British Pounds ($5989-9982).

This time of year snow scenes may not be as popular and as a result you may be able to get a bargain. Yes, the pound is stronger than the dollar but this has scared away some bidders. Cooper's watercolors steadily acheived over $10,000 at auction in 2007. Looking at it this way, 3000 British pounds or $5989 would be a good investment. Traditional, pastoral scenes like this one are usually a safe bet in any kind of market.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


This painting was stolen in Iraq in 2004 (Oil on Canvas 1958)
Art theft seems to be a theme this week but it brings up an important point when buying, selling, and appraising items. Along the same lines, fakes and forgeries are a huge problem in the art world. Every work of art has a history and being able to prove that history makes a huge difference. Consider the activities that took place in Europe during World War II. According to the “Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal” a website launched by the American Association of Museums “from 1933 through the end of World War II in 1945, the Nazi regime orchestrated a program of theft, confiscation, coercive transfer, looting, pillage, and destruction of objects of art and other cultural property in Europe on a massive and unprecedented scale.” While some of the objects were eventually recovered others have never been found or returned. Following this time, museums around the world continued to collect art and artifacts without fully researching the history. As a result, the original owners of some of the pieces began making claims of ownership. Today, museums have begun the long and arduous task of researching pieces in their collections, and, in some cases returning them to their rightful owners. Currently there are fifteen thousand thirty three objects from one hundred and nineteen participating museums listed on the website. Among the museums are the University of Kentucky Art Museum in Lexington and the J.B. Speed Art Museum in Louisville. The University of Kentucky Art Museum lists thirty pieces acquired during this period while the Speed Museum lists four paintings. The paintings at the Speed include, A Bacchanal by Jan Brueghel, Breakfast Still Life by Pieter Claesz, Flowers in a Glass Vase by Jan van den Hecke, and A Gallant Musical Pause at Delft by Jan Verkolje. According to Peter Morrin, Director of the Speed Museum, the provenance for the works listed on the website is incomplete. As research continues on the project and more is learned about the provenance of works in the Speed’s collection more works will be added. This raises the question of what steps the Speed would take if someone claimed that a listed piece was stolen from their family during World War II. According to Mr. Morrin, “Museums participating in the project are making their best effort to be as open in their dealings as possible. If a rightful heir finds that an object on the site is a piece they believe was stolen during World War II, they can contact the appropriate agency and begin the claims process.”
World War II is not the only instance when art and artifacts have been stolen during a time of conflict and have reemerged in another country. For years the Koreans have accused the Japanese of plundering artwork during their thirty-six year occupation of the peninsula. Due to the 1965 Japan-Korea Treaty, fourteen hundred items were returned. However, this was probably not even half of what was taken. Today Japan maintains ownership of many valuable items. Kwon Cheeyun, an art historian in Seoul told Newsweek International that, “35,000 Korean art objects and 30,000 rare books have been confirmed to be there too.” Beyond those numbers, there are probably even more items in private collections. In light of this, it was no surprise when Kakurinji Temple in Kakogawa, Japan was robbed in 2002. Among the pieces that were stolen was the Amida Buddha from Korea’s Koryo period. This was another instance when the robbers claimed a “moral purpose,” as the two Koreans who were apprehended in the theft said they were on a mission to reclaim pieces of Korean history.
With the invasion of Iraq, Baghdad burned and the Museums were looted. While the U.S. was required to ensure order and protect museums and other cultural institutions under the laws of war, Donald Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news briefing that “stuff happens.” He continued to say that, “it is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over and over and over again of some boy walking out with a vase and say, 'Oh, my goodness, you didn't have a plan.' That's nonsense." But today, years after Rumsfeld spoke those words it is now evident that the U.S. did not have a plan. At the time, the Deputy Director of the National Museum of Iraq blamed the U.S. forces for refusing to prevent the plunder of items that date back thousands of years. In fact, it is widely reported that U.S. forces only intervened once for a half hour in the forty-eight hour looting spree. It has also been reported that some of the looting that occurred in Iraq was planned in advance. Upon inspection, investigators noticed that some of the glass cases had been opened with keys and suspicions were raised about the items being sold abroad. To make matters worse, a February 15, 2005 article by Humberto Marquez for the Inter Press Service said that U.S. and Polish soldiers are stealing antiquities and selling them over the border. This is “the biggest cultural disaster since the descendants of Genghis Khan destroyed Baghdad in 1258,” Venezuelan writer Fernando Báez told IPS. It is his belief that the United States has not signed The Hague Convention or the 1999 protocol because the government knows that by not protecting the art and artifacts of Iraq it has violated that convention. However, Mr. Báez states that coalition forces are also to blame. It is not known how many more items will be missing before the U.S. leaves Iraq or how many will be recovered. If history repeats itself, cultural institutions may have to start researching the provenance of the pieces they acquired beginning in 2003.
What does this mean for the average collector? It means don't buy unless the dealer provides a solid provenance and then make sure you check out the provence before money is exchanged . To bring home this point I am going to end by telling you a story about a piece that I was hired to appraise about six months ago. I received a frantic phone call from a woman that I knew but who had never been a client. She had been promising her insurance company an appraisal for several itemized pieces for a year but had procrastinated. By the time she contacted me, they had given her three days before they were going to drop the items from her policy. She paid about $15,000 for one piece which was confirmed by a receipt from an antique dealer who was known to have a good reputation. A small bit of information on the receipt said that the piece was attributed to a particular artist by a known historian in that genre. An appraiser has to conduct due diligence so I called the antique dealer to confirm this information and to ask him if he had any supporting evidence. He said he did but told me to call him back. When I called him back he got very angry with me, yelled, and hung up the phone. This was quite a shocking experience because I was just practicing due diligence. He only needed to tell me that this was what the auction house provided to him and he knew nothing more. However, his abrupt, unprofessional behavior made me suspicious. I called around Italy and checked with some of the best experts in the world in that genre of art. They looked at the images and told me that they did not believe any expert would attribute that particular piece without a good deal of documentation. Further, they had never heard of the supposed “authentication expert” and I could not find evidence of her existence. Therefore, I had to claim that the piece was “in the style of” as opposed to “attributed to” which made a difference in the value. I also had to explain what happened with the antique dealer in the appraisal. My client was unhappy and the antique dealer tried to back peddle. I don’t know what happened after that. What I do know is that I did my due diligence and if that client ever tries to sell her piece at a high end auction they will also do their due diligence and she may not be able to sell the piece due to poor provenance and the unsupported claims made by the dealer.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


On Monday, February 25, 2008, 175 pieces of Pottery including Rookwood, Weller, Roseville, Owens, Van Briggle, Hampshire, Pillin, and Fulper was stolen along with a cargo Trailer from Belhorn Auction Services in Hilliard, Ohio (suburb of Columbus). All of the pieces of this pottery were to go to auction at the American Pottery Association's Annual Convention on April 23-27. Money made from off the commission of the pottery sale was to benefit the American Pottery Association.
Although all of the names of pottery listed above are popular, Rookwood Pottery is especially desirable in our area due to the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati connection. Rookwood can be easily identified as it is usually well-marked. The most famous factory marks on the base include a sun-like symbol which dates the piece. This system began in 1886 with a line (or a ray of the sun) added each year thereafter.
If you have information regarding this theft or if you recognize any of the attached photos please contact the Hilliard (Ohio) Police Department at (614) 876-7321. If you would like to see video of the vehicle, more pictures of stolen pottery, or other information regarding the theft please go to the Belhorn Auction Service website.


Over the weekend I completed an on-site inspection for an appraisal in Maysville, Kentucky. When I was finished there were a couple of hours left in the day to explore. Located on the banks of the Ohio, nestled below a cliff, the town incorporates old architecture with a good museum and some interesting art galleries. The most unusual gallery was EAT (Exquisite Art Treasures). The gallery owners moved to Kentucky from Beverly Hills fifteen years ago and restored the old EATS building (so called because of the restaurant that used to be there.) Modern, a bit edgy, and very interesting, EAT could be located in New York. But it is not. It's in Maysville. Long time importers of stones and other natural treasures, the owners teamed up with jewelry artists to create one-of-a-kind pieces. There are also Geodes, mineral specimens, framed butterflies, fossils and other natural creations in the space. Angel Wings: Geode
Jewelry has long been considered a good collecting area. Although I do not appraise jewelry I know that a well-made item with good quality stones will bring top dollar in the future. As a collector you want to find good style, high quality, and something that is rare and coveted by many. Most importantly, you want your collection to consist of items that excite you. Maybe you can find your next treasure at EAT. At the very least, you will have the opportunity to visit one of the country's most beautiful and historic small towns.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


painted aluminum
72 x 72 x 36 in.

Year: 1966 -

Edition:5/6 Signed
Sotheby's Paris

December 12, 2007
Sold For: $1,227,352

Today I found this website which is dedicated to blogging about love and love messages. Although it has nothing to do with appraising or art, it did make me start thinking about famous art images depicting Love. Perhaps the most famous and iconic of all images relating to love is Robert Indiana's LOVE. This image was recreated in many mediums by the artist including oil, aluminum, silkscreens, rugs, and several more. The original image was made for the Museum of Modern Art's 1964 Christmas Card. Each of these pieces sold for different prices based on a variety of factors including, medium, year of production, color, quality, size, signature, and provenance.(successive history of ownership)
If you would like to see LOVE for yourself, the Indianapolis Museum of Art owns a sculpture version which they display outside the museum.

1.Screen Print in colors (left)
18.1 x 18.1 in.
Year: 1997 -
Edition: 38/150
Christie's New York

February 8, 2008
Sold For: 4,375 US$ PREMIUM

2.Oil on Canvas (right)
12X12 in.
Year: 2003 -
stamped with the artists initials, VH and dated 03

Sotheby's London

February 28, 2008
Estimate: US$ 68,479 - 88,045, UNSOLD

Monday, March 3, 2008


On paper, Francis Bacon probably wouldn't look that promising to wealthy collectors during the 1930s. Never formally trained in art, Bacon began paint before he moved to London in 1929. There, he established himself as an interior designer and as a furniture designer. By 1934 he was organizing group shows and solo shows and soon after destroyed much of his own work. He did not paint intensively again until 1944. After that date his works began to sell very quickly.

2007 was a very good sales year for Bacon's work. In fact, it was the best year ever. In that year seven canvasses sold for more than $10million a piece but on February 6th of 2008 experts claimed the market must be softening when a well-made Bacon triptych sold for just under the estimated value of £25 million and sold for £23.5 million ($46.3 million) instead. They could not have been more wrong.

By 1969, during one of his most prolific periods, Bacon finished Study of Nude with Figure in a Mirror (seen above). On February 27, 2008 this piece went to auction and sold for the auction night high of £19,956,500. This, during a sale at which new auction records were set for six other major artists. According to Alexander Branczik, a contemporary art specialist at Sotheby's "this would never have been sold at auction if it wasn't going to achieve £18m." In other words, the private collector noticed the rising prices of Bacon's work and knew that now was the right time to sell.

Ultimately, this is the point of this posting today. Most people will tell you to collect what you like and enjoy it without a thought to future value. I know from experience that even if collectors claim that this is their motivation, money always plays a part in it. Everyone wants to have good taste and everyone wants to make a wise investment. The only way to do this is to work hard at understanding the market you are interested in. Have the artist's prices risen in the last five years? If you have been looking at their work for a while do you think they show improvement or a development of style? Are they making work that reflects a new and exciting trend or does it look exactly like something that was made 100 years ago? Ultimately, this is what I do as an appraiser. I am constantly evaluating your work in relation to works of similar subject, style, size, condition etc. that have sold in the past. I am making value judements based on my experience looking at art and studying the marketplace. You too, can become an expert if only in a particular style or with a particular artist. Who knows, sooner, rather than later you might be bringing home the Bacon.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


You probably know by now that Louisville has a great art scene. Galleries abound in downtown, Crescent Hill, and the Highlands. But did you know that there are also a lot of great art buying opportunities in the surrounding areas?

One of my favorites is the Cincinnati Art Galleries

This auction house is one of the best in the region for high quality art. They specialize in Rookwood Pottery but also sell wonderful paintings, furniture and books.

As an appraiser, one of my jobs is to follow the trends in art. Like other creative forms, art reflects what is going on in society as a whole. Right now there is a pull toward clean lines and bright colors. Cincinnati Art Galleries show "Robert Herrmann - Cincinnati's Precisionist" running from March 8-April 12 is a good example of that trend. Herrmann studied art at the University of Cincinnati (among others). He created images of New York, Cincinnati, and Washington D.C. and his style is defined by the crisp lines and details of his images. This artist never showed his work in his lifetime and probably never sold anything during is life either. After his death in 1996, his pieces were shown in a one man show in Cincinnati. Today, they are being offered again. Although investing in art is tricky, Herrmann's work is still relatively inexpensive. If you like it (see picture above or go to the website) now may be the time to invest.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Today I did an appraisal of one painting which was 170 miles from where I live. Usually, I reserve distance appraisals for people with more than one thing but the client was enthusiastic about the historic aspect of the painting so I knew that it wouldn't be a wasted trip either way. Yes, value is important but historic significance is just as important in my opinion. If I complete the research and find out that the painting is only worth $100 I hope to at least give my client information about when the piece was created, who created it, how they were educated etc.

As an appraiser I want your art to be value. I take no pleasure in telling you that your piece is a 1990s photocopy with no value. But it is what it is. I don't make the decision about what the value of a piece is but too often the appraiser gets blamed. I have turned down jobs when a client calls me and tells me that another appraiser looked at the piece ago and said it wasn't worth much. The chances are, that appraiser was correct and I will just be wasting the client's time and money. If the client tells me that they have discovered important paperwork relating to the piece (like a receipt that it was purchased from the Kennedy Estate) then I will willing to reappraise the item. Most of the time though the piece has been inherited from a relative who told them that it was worth a certain amount and the client just can't get past it. Too often there are stories to go along with the piece that just can't be substantiated (like 'this belonged to Henry VIII mistress'). There are stories like that in my family too and I grew up believing them. It turns out that some of the stories are true and some of them are not. Do you remember the game "telephone". If the provenance (successive history of ownership) of the piece is not written down, it often gets confused after several generations. "This piece looks exactly like the one hanging Terra in Gone with the Wind but is just a reproduction" becomes "This piece was hanging in Terra during the filming of Gone with the Wind". Many people do not have enough emotional distance from their art (me included!) and can not see past the stories that have been passed down to them.

The one drawback of my job is that for better or worse I am the messenger. I tell you what other people would be willing to pay for your piece at auction or in a gallery based on what others like it have sold for in the past. I am also the one that has to tell you that it is not an original painting or antique poster but just a really good reproduction. So, the next time you need to get something appraised remember that the appraiser hops in their car and drives to your house with all of their fingers and toes crossed. After all, it is easier (and more fun) to be the bearer of good news.