Factors for Determining the Value of a Work of Art

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Value Work of Art | Ackerman's Fine Art
Andy Warhol Roll of bills

Warhol, Andy (1928-1987) – 1962 Roll of Bills (Museum of Modern Art, NYC)

The value of a work of art is not determined haphazardly. It is a culmination of factors that are weighed against each other. It goes beyond aesthetics or names attached. When valuing art, consider all dynamics and how they affect one another.

A good starting point is the history of the piece. Provenance is the history of ownership, exhibitions and sales of a work of art. It is used to both determine authenticity and as a way to project potential value. A work owned by well known collectors or that has been featured at a prominent museum or exhibition has additional validation regarding the importance of the piece. This can contribute to the value of a work of art.  Also look at how often this work has been sold or gone to auction. Some works that have been sold frequently can be tainted in a collectors mind, thus decreasing the potential value.  Rarity, especially when coupled with demand, can make a large impact on the final price.

The work’s condition should be looked at with a critical eye. Ideally, the piece will be in its original condition, but this is not always the case. Any restoration work that has been done should be seamless and not affect the artist’s intent. Techniques, such as inpainting, should to be minimal in order to fetch a higher dollar. Inpainting is when a restorer, or sometimes a collector, has filled in or repaired part of a painting that is missing paint due to damage or flaking. This has also been done to censor or change paintings. Be on the lookout for any obvious alterations.

The subject of the piece cannot be overlooked. Different subject matters can be dictated by trends of certain eras or the focus of a particular genre. Look at auction records and art history articles to see what is typical for certain art movements or artist. Unsurprisingly, controversial works or art that depict difficult subjects have a very niche market and beautiful works appeal to a broader range of audiences. Certain subjects go in and out of fashion over time.

Balancing these factors should help value a work of art. However, if you are still unsure, speak with an art consultant or an appraiser. Art dealers also have the resources to determine value. Remember to ask for a retail appraisal instead of an insurance appraisal. There are different factors for determining value of a work of art for insurance purposes and should not be used as a way to gage the market.

One Comment on “Factors for Determining the Value of a Work of Art”

  1. Ivy Baker

    I have been wanting to start an art collection for a long time now. But I wasn’t sure how much I should actually pay for certain pieces. So, I loved that you talked about how a good place to start is to look at the history of the piece. Knowing where the art does seem like it would help you decide on a good price for it.

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