Important considerations for Art Collectors

Probably the most important factor in determining the value of a print is its condition. It is important to be aware of a print's condition before making a purchase, comparing prices, or in evaluating auction results.

Every dealer and auction house has a different standard of quality. The Art Collector always takes condition into consideration prior to purchasing or selling a work of art. Our framing adheres to the highest museum and international conservative framing standards. If there is a legitimate reason to relax these standards on a specific print we will indicate it.

Often price variants are affected by the variations in the condition of prints being offered by dealers and auction houses, there may be significant price differentials among dealers, as a result. One can be almost certain when there are major discrepancies between gallery prices and auction results that significantly lower prices reflect condition problems of the auctioned print.

The Art Collector has reproduced edited excerpts below from the Collector's Guide of the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), for referance purposes.

Art Dealers Association of America -- Collectors Guide

The process of buying and selling art can be daunting. In order to help new buyers and would-be collectors, we have provided below an abridged Collectors Guide from the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA).

What to look for in a Work of Art

The key issues to consider when weighing a potential purchase are Quality, Authenticity, Condition, Rarity, Provenance and Value. No one of these points is sufficient to warrant overlooking the others. All factors should figure in the decision, even if allowances are made in special cases. For example, if a work is extremely rare, one may have to accept a less than perfect state of preservation. But it would seem imprudent to buy a readily available type of work in less than fine condition.

Quality - Experienced dealers and collectors agree that it is always advisable to buy the best one can afford. The most effective way to develop an eye for quality is to look at art, and no one looks at more art than a good dealer.

Authenticity - No one wants to buy a fake. Dealers who represent artists or their estates automatically have access to primary source information that can be used to authenticate works. A dealer with an extensive history of handling a specific artist's work will also build up an archive of information as well as a body of experience which can help resolve questions of authorship and title.

Condition - The condition of a work is important, and a reputable dealer will inform a prospective purchaser of any significant repairs and defects. Because specialist dealers see a great many works in the areas they represent, these dealers are uniquely qualified to assess the significance of conservation or repairs such as cleaning, in painting, and lining. With some artists or types of work, it may be impossible to find an example in pristine condition. A dealer can interpret the importance of condition in the context of an artist's oeuvre and make a considered judgment about the impact of condition on a given work's value. In addition to counseling on nuances of condition that a layperson would likely miss, a dealer can advise on restoration or conservation. Dealers familiar with the work of a particular artists or period can determine whether treatment should be attempted, recommend a conservator with pertinent prior experience, and give the restorer invaluable information regarding the techniques and materials used by the artists. Inept restoration can impair value even more than neglect.

Rarity - Although there are exceptions, rarity tends to enhance value. The rarity of a given work is determined by how many similar examples exist and how frequently such works become available for purchase. By understanding a specific artist's oeuvre and by tracking the market, a dealer is ideally poised to recognize the rarity of works that come up for sale.

Provenance and Exhibition History - A good provenance can help establish authenticity, art historical importance and title. Similarly, inclusion in significant exhibitions may enhance a work's pedigree by documenting it and certifying curatorial approval. However, the absence of a complete provenance need not be a cause for alarm, provided the dealer is reputable. For example, some modern prints and works on paper were until recently deemed to be of little value and were therefore not fully documented. Some fakes come with magnificent, but spurious, provenances. And sometimes, an unwarranted premium is exacted for past ownership: celebrity sales can yield spectacular prices that do not hold up over time. Again, a dealer can help evaluate a specific provenance to determine its legitimacy and significance.

Value - Particularly when prices are rising, the idea of "art as an investment" gains credibility. However, collections assembled with the hope of financial profit alone often prove to be poor investments. Collectors should be wary of apparent bargains and promises of future gain. Art chosen solely on the basis of price will yield a mediocre collection that does not necessarily hold its value on resale, especially during economic downturns. It is collections formed with passion and intelligence that stand the test of time, both aesthetically and monetarily.

Tastes and market conditions change and values change accordingly. For example, the academic art of the nineteenth century, in its day, far outpaced in price the work of the contemporary Impressionists, only to be eclipsed by the latter group as the twentieth century progressed. Today some of these academic artists, seriously undervalued for years, are experiencing resurgence. Although no one can predict the future, dealers tend to be able to place current prices in perspective, in their fields of expertise.

What Do Dealers Do?

New collectors may be surprised to learn the range of services art dealers offer:

Education - Art dealers enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience with their clients. Regular discussions about gallery artists and related art movement often occupy much a dealer's time.

Publications - Many dealers regularly publish exhibition catalogues, monographs and catalogues raisonnes, promoting scholarly research and critical understanding in areas not always covered by commercial publications.

Curatorial Advice - Art dealers routinely encourage and collaborate in the formation of collections, often helping their clients develop an overall strategy and focus. Dealers also advise their clients about lending and donating art, insurance, framing, conservation, cataloguing and many other subjects of mutual interest. Museums and non-profit spaces commonly request curatorial advice from dealers and ask for help in locating works that institutions borrow for exhibition.

Sales and Resale’s - Buying a work of art from a dealer is often the beginning of a long-term relationship. Art dealers not only help collectors buy, but can also help clients sell works when the time comes to upgrade or change the direction of a collection. It is always worth consulting with the dealer who originally sold a work before reoffering it, since dealers frequently keep track of requests for specific works on behalf of clients. Dealers appreciate clients who turn to them when re-selling, and are more likely to offer these collectors important works in the future. Dealers consider previously sold works a "latent inventory" upon which they may draw for subsequent sales.

Appraisals - Collectors rely on dealers' appraisals for a wide variety of purposes, including charitable donations, insurance, tax, financial and estate planning. Dealers not only evaluate works, but where appropriate can offer advice on disposition. There are different types of appraisal, many with special requirements. Dealers are aware of these delicate nuances and their years of experience make them particularly adept at interpreting comparable sales, both private and public.

How To Buy And Sell Through A Dealer

"Just looking" is perfectly acceptable in an art gallery. Dealers know that "just looking" at art is time well spent. The best dealers are those with a genuine and profound passion for art. They enjoy nothing more than talking about art with people who share their passion. Today's novice collector is tomorrow's connoisseur, so dealers consider time spent with beginners not only gratifying but an investment in the future. Don't be afraid to engage a dealer in conversation about an artist or work of art you admire, and ask questions. Acquiring a work of art is a personal and genuinely rewarding experience, and clients can profit considerably from a good on-going relationship with a dealer who has their individual collecting interests in mind.

What's It Worth? - Many people think that auction results and Internet price guides are sufficient to determine the value of a work of art, but these guides rarely tell the whole story. The evaluation of a specific work depends on numerous factors including quality, condition and evolving market realities. A competent dealer can evaluate a work in the light of recent sales, both public and private. A good dealer will explain how a price was determined and why a given work may be worth more or less than a seemingly similar example.

Why Sell To Or Through A Dealer - Dealers have spent many years creating a circle of collectors interested in their specialized fields. It is likely that these dealers will have among their clients some who are interested in buying the work you want to sell. A dealer will be able to begin marketing a work from the time it is received, unlike auction houses, which must sometimes wait six months for a suitable sale date. Sellers have more control over the final price and conditions of sale when working with a dealer than is possible at auction, in part because there is far less time pressure. This lack of pressure allows for a measured and effective interchange between the dealer, the seller and potential buyers. Dealers protect sellers with confidentiality and comparative privacy, avoiding the negative effects of exposure through auction catalogues. The information that a particular lot has failed to sell at auction is as widely disseminated as the catalogue itself, and this can have a negative effect on future prospects for sale. With a dealer, a seller can always adjust the price if the market changes or has initially been misread.

Consignment or Outright Sale - While dealers are not always interested in buying works offered to them, chances are the seller will be given the choice between outright sale and consignment. Outright sale is usually the quickest method of disposing of art, but since the dealer must invest capital without assurance of a quick resale, the amount offered will probably be less than could be netted from a consignment. In the latter case, the dealer works either on commission or with a minimum net price, and the seller is paid when the work has been sold. The cost of selling through dealers is generally comparable to or less than selling at auction and a competent dealer is often able to obtain a more favorable net outcome than would be possible at auction. In addition, dealers frequently absorb costs, such as photography, catalogue illustration and insurance that auction houses routinely charge to the seller.

Setting The Price - Whether selling at auction or through a dealer, setting an unrealistic price is the surest way to spoil the chance of success. To determine a fair value, ask the advice of a trusted dealer. It is a good idea to get several informed opinions and check on prior auction results. Ask the dealer to explain the valuation strategy. Bear in mind that it is in the dealer's interest as much the seller's to achieve the highest possible price, but that the market does have practical limits. A transaction can only be completed with a willing buyer, a willing seller and a price acceptable to both parties.


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