Art Collecting 101: Beginner's Guide on Art Appraisals

  • by Cielo Serale

This can't be the only time you've heard of the term, art appraisals or appraisals in general. Technically, appraisals have been used not only for the arts. It can be used for any property or business, even in employment terms. In a more general term, it's an expert estimate of an item's value via an in-depth assessment. It works exactly like this in fine arts but the question is how. Unlike other industries, the arts are not directly affected by economic shifts like inflation but just like any property, an artwork's value is defined by more than just how much its medium costs. To understand appraisals better, we need to break them to different ideas.

Types of Appraisals

There are many ways to do appraisals and it usually depends on the purpose. The first and probably the most important is for insurance purposes. Usually, galleries and museums do this to assess how much each piece is worth that can be covered by insurance in case of unfortunate events. Every collector must know the price of each artwork in their possession as a safety measure. A lot of collectors also appraise artworks for donation purposes. There are a lot of reasons to do so like tax deductions. You may also appraise artworks for liquidity in case there's a need to audit all your assets, division of property if it's to be passed on to your offsprings or equity reasons. Of course, a lot of artworks are also appraised for resale purposes. It's easier to unload some pieces from a collection knowing how much they truly cost. Estates also appraise artworks for taxation purposes. All these different types can help define the value of the artworks at hand and understand better their purpose in your collection.

What Appraisers Consider

As previously stated, the purpose for appraisal affects the means of how an artwork is appraised but it usually revolves around the artwork's history and the opinion of the appraiser him/herself. Through thorough research and market study, the appraiser shall take into consideration the following:

  • provenance,
  • exhibition histories,
  • private sales records,
  • auction records,
  • the artists' other artworks currently on sale or available in the market be it private sales or auction, 
  • and an extensive comparison to items similar to the piece being appraised.

The document should have factual information about the piece such as its title, artist, the year it was made, medium, and more. The appraiser shall also share his/her opinion on the monetary value of the piece. Again based on its purpose, appraisals may be done every 10 years or less.

It's Not an Authentication

You should always keep in mind that an appraisal does not certify authenticity. It's an assessment of the value of the artwork and not a certification that it is authentic. There are a lot of museums, estates, and galleries providing authentication if needed by the client, usually for a fee.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.