Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Gerard Traquandi, XXLH0405, 2005, oil on canvas. The work of this French-born artist will be shown at Art Basel.

Contemporary art enrages many people. Not necessarily because of the subject matter (although that can be a reason) but because they feel it doesn't take any skill. I value art based on what it has sold for in the past so my job isn't to defend it. What I will say is that there are a lot of collectors who love contemporary art and go out of their way to collect it. These are smart people, people who have done their research and understand why a particular piece or artist is important. Contemporary art is new and exciting. For art collectors it is exciting in the same way that the Apple iphone was exciting to people who are fascinated by new technology. If you want to learn more about contemporary art then you must attend or follow the happenings of these events.

ART BASEL - June 4-8, 2008
Art Basel. Just the words make collectors heave a collective sigh. Like lovesick teenagers, contemporary collectors plan their life around attending this event and reveling in the art. Art Basel hosts 300 galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. Ranging from rising stars to contemporary masters most of the who's who of the contemporary art world attend. But Art Basel isn't just about the paintings. Everything including lectures, books, art shows on stage, and art exhibits will be displayed during the event.
THE TURNER PRIZE - Sept. 30, 2008- Jan. 1, 2009
The Turner Prize was developed in 1984 to "celebrate new developments in contemporary art." Since that time, the publicity surrounding the prize has become just as famous as the prize itself. Known for promoting outrageous art the prize has brought more than praise and criticism to the host museum, Tate Britain. It has raised the profile and the budget of the museum as well as being recognized as the giver of the most prestigious art award in Europe. The Turner prize is judged by an annually changing jury. This year the nominees are Runa Islam, Mark Leckey, Goshka Macuga, and Cathy Wilkes.

Cathy Wilkes: 'Non-Verbal' (installation view), 2005

Thursday, May 22, 2008


In today's market there are hundreds of collecting areas available to interested parties. In the world of photography, there are many sub- categories which interest collectors. Perhaps one of the most intriguing areas is that of the daguerreotype.

Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre announced his invention of the daguerreotype process to the public on August 19, 1839. It remained a popular medium until 1850 when faster processes became available. A daguerreotype is a process whereby silver is plated on top of copper and is polished and shined until it is mirror-like. The plate was then sensitized in a closed box over iodine until it achieved a rose color. The plate was then held in a container which did not allow light in and then transferred to a camera. After being exposed to light, the plate was developed over hot mercury until the image appeared. Finally, the plate was soaked in a solution of sodium thiosulfate and toned with gold chloride to fix the image.

Stereo Daguerreotype untitled (draped female nude pouring from a teapot), 1850sPair of stereoscopic daguerreotypes, hand coloured, gilt highlights, arched top corners, edges taped. mount size 8.5 x 17.3cm (3¼ x 6_ in.) image sizes 6.5 x 5.6cm (2½ x 2¼ in.).(1) Estimate £500 - £700

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


County Election located in the St. Louis Museum of Art, just 4 1/2 hours west of Louisville

Today is election day in Kentucky. To honor this great American process, I thought it would be appropriate to briefly discuss a great American artist who focused on painting American elections.

George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) was born in Virginia but was raised in Missouri. Bingham is considered one of the first great artists of the west and the first artist of Misssouri. In 1847 the artist began his "Election" series of paintings which depicted America's deomocratic process. It also portrayed politics as they were in the American west at that time. Because these paintings were so sucessful, Bingham decided to commission a series of engravings based on his paintings. Produced in large quantities the engravings furthered the artist's reputation. The most striking aspect of Bingham's pieces is his ability to depict people of every age and social class with varying expressions and poses. Below are a few of the most recent auction results for some of his engravings in the "Election" series.

County Election
Handcolored engraving
26.2" X 32.6"
Christies New York: Jan 29, 2006
Important American furniture, Folk Art, Silver & Prints
Estimate: $2000-$3000
Sold: $4200
Stump Speaking
Hand colored engraving and Mezzotint
20.2" X 30.1"
Freemans: Thursday, Jan 25, 2007, lot 564
Fine Books, Manuscripts, & Prints
Estimate: $2500-$3500
Sold: $3854

Friday, May 16, 2008


If the economy is in a recession then someone forgot to tell the art market. On May 14 the Sotheby's New York contemporary sale realized $362,037,000 over 73 lots. This was touted by auctioneer Tobias Meyer as, "Our best sale ever with the highest total ever in our 264 year history." It was only the night before that Christie's contemporary sale realized $348 million over 57 lots. Although there were many highlights, one worth noting was Jeff Koons' creation entitled Caterpillar Chains. (see below)

Jeff Koons was born in York Pennsylvania in 1955 and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Maryland Institute of College Art. Koons has long been known as a good self-promoter who relies on shiny, kitschy images to gain public attention. When he created a large gold leaf statue of Michael Jackson holding his chimpanzee, Christopher Knight of the Times referred to it as, "the largest porcelain knickknack in the world." It is just this sort of criticism and controversy that has helped drive the artist's reputation as well as his sales figures.

In the 1980s while Koons was still trying to make a name for himself he worked as a stock broker on Wall Street. This led to the perception that the artist was a product of the decade's overindulgent society. Coupled with his marriage to a Hungarian porn star, divorce from the Hungarian porn star, and a messy child custody battle, Koons was soon viewed in a negative light and the prices of his work began to fall (it would have been a good time to buy!) However, Koons found a way to recover.

After not being invited to participate in Documenta, an exhibit in Germany, the artist decided to unveil his work Puppy (first image on page) close by so that those visiting the exhibit would still see it. Puppy was a forty foot high West Highland Terrier made completely of live flowers. Needless to say, it stole the show and helped Koons' career.

Today Jeff Koons' work records record sales. This is an interesting fact considering the U.S. economy is in a recession similar to the one following the 1980s. At the May 14 Sotheby's sale Koons' work entitled Caterpillar Chains (seen above) from 2003 was purchased for $5,921,000.

Although Caterpillar Chains sold in the millions, not all of Jeff Koons' work is inaccessible to the average art collector. The artist's smaller works, particularly those produced in a series can still be purchased in the low thousand. On May 17 Puppy, porcelain, 1998, numbered 1044/3000 and measuring 17 1/2" high (white dog sculpture above) will be sold at Rago Arts and Auction Center. The estimate for this piece is $2000-$3000. This estimate is a little lower than the sale price of the same work (different number) that sold on 4-4-08 at Ketlerkunt in Hamburg for $5298. If you can't attend the live auction you can place a bid through ebay here.

Balloon Dog, 2002, 10.13 X 10.13, Porcelain

This is one of the shiny creations which is immediately recognizable a work by Jeff Koons. It will also be auctioned at the Rago auction and on ebay. The estimate is $3500-$4500. You can find that auction here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Outside of the appraisal profession, many people think that appraising consists of looking at a painting and then looking at comparable paintings to estimate what it is worth. This is what I call "the Antiques Roadshow" effect. And if it were truly that easy I don't think I would have a job. The truth is, appraising any object is very difficult. There are many factors to consider outside of price. Determining the appropriate market and understanding the laws behind each type of appraisal and everything that that consists of takes a lot of study. I spent a summer at New York University taking classes about how to appraise and I interned with another appraiser before I began. Yet every year I read books, take classes, and converse with my appraisal association and other appraisers to stay up to date.
This brings me to the story of Roxanna M. Brown. Brown is the director of the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum at Bankok University in Thailand. On Friday she was arrested in Seattle and then later indicted by a grand jury in Los Angeles on on federal wire fraud charges and importing stolen antiquities from Southeast Asia. The affidavit also states that Brown allowed Jonathan and Cari Markell, owners of Silk Roads Gallery, to use Brown's electronic sigature on tax appraisal forms. It was claimed that these forms inflated the value of the antiques which were then donated to Southern California Museums. To see the full story read this.
Until all of the facts are revealed who knows what really happened. As an appraiser, what I can say is that although Ms. Brown was an expert in antiques she was likely not an expert appraiser. An appraiser would know that every object to be appraised should be carefully inspected and then comparable items should be discussed in relation to the item being appraised. She would have known that no one else should have been allowed to use her signature on tax forms because as an expert she is responsible for the values placed on the items. Ms. Brown also may not have understood the market place. For donation purposes the fair market and the retail market must both be examined. It is not as simple as saying, "this piece sold for $100 at auction so for retail purposes it is $200". Analyzing the facts and understanding why an item is being placed at a certain value is one of the most important parts of the job. Creating a report that is true to the Appraisal Foundation Standards, Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), and the standards of one of the three major personal property appraisal societies is mandatory as a self-proclaimed valuation expert. Although the case of Roxanna M. Brown looks like intentional deception, the truth is, she may not have known better.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


In my last posting I described going to the world-famous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Actually, I glossed over that museum in favor of discussing the MFA Boston because the truth is, I was disappointed in the Gardner. Perhaps that is what happens when you build something up in your mind only to arrive, pay, and find out that half of the museum is closed because of a concert. It is also disappointing when the staff yells at the visitors not to sit in certain areas and treats them like cattle. Because of its popularity, the museum is over-run with tourists. On a positive note, the collection is very interesting and the interior garden at the Gardner is beautiful.
If you really want a treat save your money and go to a historic house/art museum that is arguably better and closer to home, and less well known. The Taft Museum located in Cincinnati will thrill you if you are a lover of art, architecture, or history. The Palladian style home is considered to be one of the best examples of Federal architecture in the country. It was built in 1820 for Martin Baum and was later purchased by Nicholas Longworth. Mr. Longworth hired an African American painter named Robert S. Duncanson who created murals on the homes interior. Those murals are now considered the best example of pre civil war imagery anywhere in the country. Later, the home was owned by Anna Taft and her husband Charles Phelps Taft. Charles Taft was the brother of the president William Howard Taft. In fact, it was on the portico of the home where W.H. Taft accepted the nomination for president of the United States.

The Taft Museum has 690 works in its permanent collection. Among those works are some of the best examples of American 19th century painting any where in the world. Included in those works are several examples by the famous Cincinnati artist, Frank Duveneck. Duveneck was an American expatriate and the leading figure of the Munich School in the 1870's and 1880s. During that period Duveneck was noted for applying paint in blocks of color quickly and for creating figures which emerged from a dark background (The Cobbler's Apprentice shown above is an example). In today's market, the sales of Duveneck's work are all over the place. While the 1870s and 1880s are the periods he is most noted for, the brighter, more colorful paintings of his later periods (especially those when he was in Italy) have sold for higher prices at market. Below are a few of the most recent auction records.

16" x 13"
Oil/CanvasSigned Monogram Lot: 184
Auction House: Stair Galleries
Low Est.: $500
High Est.: $700
Sales Price: $2,500

15" x 10"
Oil/Canvas Signed
MonogramLot: 2016
Auction House: DuMouchelles Auction House
Low Est.: $5,000
High Est.: $6,000
Sales Price: $7,500

10.13" x 14.70"
Oil/Canvas Signed
Lot: 35
Auction House: Sotheby's New York
Low Est.: $6,000
High Est.: $8,000
Sales Price**: -not sold-

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Two weeks ago we took a trip to Boston. With all of the revolutionary war history, architectural history, and art history, I could hardly wait to feast my eyes on everything Boston had to offer. This was my first trip to that city.
The place I had longed to go for many years was the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Now known as much for the March 1990 theft as it is for its extraordinary art collection, the history and mystery surrounding the museum fascinated me. On the day we finally decided to go there we also decided to visit the Museum of Fine Arts which is located just across the street from the Gardner Museum. Over the years I had heard so much about the Gardner Museum I never noticed anyone talk about the Museum of Fine Arts. Maybe because I wasn't expecting it, I was pleasantly surprised by how wonderful MFA, Boston is. With a fabulous American art and furniture collection I was in heaven. But it was their exhibition of the paintings by Antonio López García that really made me catch my breath. García was touted in the exhibition as Spain's oldest living artist. Although García is a realist, he is also so much more than that. While many artists work on a canvas only during certain times of the day (for the purpose of capturing the same light day after day) García is known to take years to finish his pieces so that he can capture the correct light for the time of year. The effect of this is startling. While his landscapes are realistic and purposefully detailed, they also catch a fleeting moment, the essence of the Spanish terrain and architecture, and they create a connection with the place that draws the viewer in. The exhibition contains sixty pieces and runs until July 1.
Because this is primarily an appraisal blog you may be wondering what the prices are for García's work. Below are some auction results

Title: Perro muerto (this is a landscape)
oil on board
28.7 x 39.4 in. / 73 x 100 cm.
1963 -
Christie's London: Thursday, February 9, 2006 [Lot 128]Post-War and Contemporary Art (Day Sale)
25,000 - 35,000 BP (US$ 44,483 - 62,277)
Sold For
198,400 BP (345,043 US$)

Title: Mujer durmiendo (El sueño) (this depicts a person sleeping on a bed)
painted wood
47.6 x 80.7 x 4.7 in. / 121 x 205 x 12 cm.
1963 -
Christie's Madrid: Wednesday, October 5, 2005 [Lot 65]Arte Español
400,000 - 600,000 Euro (US$ 498,132 - 747,198)
Sold For
684,000 Euro (818,181 US$)

Monday, May 5, 2008


It has been a few days since I've posted because I am in Atlanta getting tested on Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). Although my head is spinning from all of the rule changes and updated information I really feel like I have learned a lot that will benefit my clients. USPAP can be confusing but it is really a comprehensive guide for appraisers (both for personal property and real estate). By December all personal property appraisers will have to take the test.
Although it would be impossible to discuss everything in USPAP, I thought it might be interesting for readers to see a few issues appraisers will be thinking about this year. In Standards rule 7-1, lines 1721-1723 state, "For this reason, it is not sufficient for appraisers to simply maintain the skills and the knowledge they possess when they become appraisers. Each appraiser must continuously improve his or her skills to remain proficient in peronsal property appraisal." I improve my skills in many ways including writing for this blog. In order to stay current and interesting, I am constantly researching the marketplace and writing about it.

It might also interest you to know that according to the ethics rules of USPAP "an appraiser must protect the confidential nature of the appraiser-client relationship." If an attorney requests a copy of the appraisal and they have not been named in the appraisal and the client has not given their permission, then the appraiser should not pass along the report. The appraiser should also not discuss the client's work with collectors, auctions houses, or even family members without the permission of the client. Of course, permission is often needed to complete research but this is something the appraiser and the client will need to discuss.