Here are three examples when so called experts at auctions missed the boat … and the plane, train, and bus. Great news for auction shoppers. Three art owners that I met at my antiques appraisal events searched online first and were left with no accurate information about some pretty important pieces. All three of these works of art were purchased at established auctions in major American cities. In each case, the auction house “experts” thought that the works of art were fakes and sold them to the general public as fakes. In each case, the piece was authentic as I determined using my appraisal expertise and Ph.D. in art history. The auctions overlooked three very important and very valuable pieces of fine art. Read and understand auction values.
If you were the seller and you paid the auction house to identify, catalogue, find potential buyers and interested parties for, advertise, create excitement about, and market your fine art works for sale, wouldn’t you want them to properly identify, research, and highlight your work of art in its best light and give the most comprehensive information about your work of art to the potential buyers? Wouldn’t you want the auction house to promote your fine art that was up for auction by sharing the most important information about the work of art to the bidding public? Don’t you expect them to promote the object properly with all possible marketing information available?
Since you are giving the auction house a high percentage of the final sales price (including a buyer’s premium and/or a seller’s premium) to do this type of research and marketing for an object, don’t you think that all of the information about the piece should be shared with the broadest audience? And remember, the auctions houses, in these cases, lost a lot of money themselves because they were mistaken and overlooked information.
1. French Impressionist painting
An authentic French Impressionist painting by Auguste Renoir painting sold at an auction for only 275 dollars that I was asked to appraise at my antique appraisal events. It’s really worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The painting depicted one of Renoir’s best-known subjects. It was painted in the artist’s typical form and palette on canvas and stretchers that Renoir was known to use in his late career. Further, the painting was inscribed by the artist on the back with more information that authenticated it. The auction house didn’t bother to remove a paper dust screen covering the back of the painting and its stretcher. They never looked on the back as it revealed an unmistakable notation from the artist about the sitter as well as a second authentic artist’s signature. You can get great buys at auctions, but why would you use them to appraise or sell your stuff when they miss something so simple? Read my 3 auction selling tips.
2. French Impressionist study
An authentic landscape painting by the teacher of French Impressionist artist, Claude Monet appeared at one of my antiques appraisal events. The artist was Eugene Boudin and the painting was an oil on canvas landscape showing one of the artist’s most characteristic and typical beach scenes. The painting was one of a group of well-known studies which was on board and that is a tell-tale sign for this artist in terms of the type of material that he used for his study pieces. The painting was sold at an auction for 5 dollars as part of an auction box lot. The auction house relegated this masterpiece worth over one hundred thousand dollars to a box lot with other small and insignificant objects from a particular sale. So, I wouldn’t suggest using auction sales records to value your antiques unless you get an expert like me to correctly authenticate your antique. The hardest part of an appraisal is identifying the art work, antique or collectible.
3. Celebrity Photographs
A pair of oversized color photographs of Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern that were purchased at a New York auction and relegated to a basement for decades appeared at one of my antiques appraisal events. The auction house incorrectly identified the photographs as cheap posters and did not advertise the artist or locate the artist’s signature. Read how to identify a print from a poster.
The auction didn’t even disassemble the frame housing the works of art or review the information, inscriptions, and signatures that were on the back of the photographs essentially “hiding” beneath a mat in the frame. In excellent condition, these signed photographs were not advertised as important Bert Stern photographs taken of the actress at the height of her fame but rather they were mistakenly sold as cheap posters of Marilyn Monroe for 40 dollars for the pair. No problem, right? Well, the auction house lost its commission from the sale of works worth tens of thousands of dollars. Learn more about auction mistakes.
Together, these three works of art total more than $1 million in value. So, shop at auctions, get a good deal and I can authenticate and value your find at my antiques appraisal events or send me a photo to find out more from an expert who also earned a Ph.D. in the field. Read more about Dr. Lori’s experience and education.