Valuations 2

Auction house sales in themselves generally offer only a partial picture, or are of little or no interest in themselves, or are not representative of an artist’s work. Works of art sold this way are unreliable as they are subject to the ebb and flow of economic circumstances, or a dearth of potential buyers, leading either to negative and uncontrolled transactions or the reverse, unpredictable speculative transactions which are beyond the auctioneer’s power to control. The question therefore is how can the art market be organised so as to produce more accurate, more formal and more enforceable valuations?

From the outset it is important not to confuse “auction” with “valuation”.The results of auctions are managed by auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Drouot Richelieu. Sales are made in the public arena. The amount a work fetches is common knowledge and publications such as Art-Price and Akoun list the date, place and sale price. Depending on the circumstances and despite the best efforts of the auctioneer, the outcome of a sale can vary a great deal. Some artists can get away with over-valuing their work through clever self-publicity. This obviously does not apply to great works of art or to masterpieces.

Auctions are but one part of the whole process of valuation. A valuation has to be accurate and fair both to the artist and to the buyer. Both sides have to be able to rely on it unhesitatingly.
In order to analyze a work of art, experts take into account technical, artistic, environmental and sociological factors which include the following:

  1. sales through galleries
  2. direct sales from the artist’s studio or workshop
  3. sales via the Internet
  4. sales by mutual agreement
  5. sales open to the public, such as auctions
  6. sales that come via reviews, guides, and other specialist publications
  7. evaluation of how the artist’s work is developing and how it is positioned in the market (galleries, shows, websites…)
  8. the artist’s profile, fame, trends in their work, and general appeal
  9. how well represented in museums and public art galleries
  10. whether bought by public bodies or private collectors
  11. output: quantity, quality, rarity, and state of conservation
  12. where sales take place and conditions of sale
  13. the artist’s background and career path

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