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What Do You Need to Know about Art Appraisal?

Vintage interior with a mirror in beautiful frame
Whether you found a 'treasure' at a local yard sale or your grandmother was cleaning out her attic and gave you a few artistic finds, appraisal is a must if you have paintings that you feel are worth something significant. Art is a fluid investment, and there is no constant standard for how much a portrait, landscape or other type of painting sells for.

Learning about the appraisal process can help you better understand why your antique art is, or isn't, worth the money that you think it is. What do you need to know about antique art appraisals? Take a look at the basics that make appraisal an art form in its own rite.

Market Value

Your painting is meticulous. Its design is true artistry and the finish is flawless. It's clear that the antique is more than well-cared for. But does that mean it has a hefty price tag?

The price of art fluctuates, depending on several different factors. Like the stock market, the art market has its ups and downs. In 2016 alone, the world market art sales total reached $45 billion, according to the European Fine Art Foundation. Keep in mind, this includes both contemporary art as well as historic or antique pieces.

The 2016 figure is up 1.7% from the previous year. While this isn't a dramatic leap, it does illustrate that the market can change. To better explain how volatile the market can be, during 2016 the value of art and antiques that were sold at auction fell 18.8%.

An appraisal will provide you with the current market value of your antique art. A painting (or other art piece) with a high valuation right now may do one of three things: hold its value steady, go up in value over time or decrease in value. Even though experts in the art market can offer their predictions as to what will happen, no one can truly tell you if your moderately valued painting will suddenly skyrocket in price or dramatically drop.

Authenticity Issues

It's important to understand that appraising a piece of art is dependent in several factors. Along with the accepted market value, authenticity is a major issue. An artwork that can't be authenticated is essentially financially worthless. This doesn't mean that it has absolutely no value. A portrait that's been handed down in your family from generation to generation may have significant psychological or sentimental value to you. Likewise, you may enjoy the aesthetics of an artwork. This makes it valuable to you - as an art viewer.

The expert appraiser has experience and knowledge in authenticating art. Some works come with a certificate of Authenticity. This is a signed document attesting to the validity of who created the artwork and when. Not all artwork comes with this certificate. If they did, the appraiser's job would be much easier. 

Appraisers look at the artwork in reference to others in the same style or by the same supposed artist. They may also look at other forensic evidence, such as fingerprint details in the paint (or other medium) itself as well as signatures.

The History

Where did the artwork come from and what is known about it? Provenance, from the French word "to come from" or "to originate," is the history of the piece on question. If the artwork doesn't come with a written history, it may be possible to trace its provenance. This can take time though. The appraiser, or other art expert, will need to thoroughly examine all records and archival data that is attributed to the artwork.

Even though many pieces of art do have records (including transaction or sales records) that experts can find, over time it becomes more and more likely that these disappear or are destroyed. This may makes establishing the provenance challenging at best.

Do you have a potentially valuable artwork? Contact Regan Lewis Antiques for more information.

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Phone: 919-872-8177


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