Not too long ago I received an email from an art appraiser of "modern and contemporary design." The appraiser was contacting me to discuss the value of an artwork that I made in 1997, which sold shortly after. Now the collector is donating the work to a major museum!
Donation of my artwork by a private collector to a museum collection is an amazing opportunity. It aligns with my professional goals, i.e. one way for my work to enter a major museum.
But the appraisal presents a challenging situation - how to establish "current value" for my work? This is especially difficult when the artwork is one-of-a-kind. There is nothing within my oeuvre that is like it. Since I don't have a gallery representing my work, the appraiser contacted me directly. I was kind of intimidated. Was I just supposed to grab a number out of the air?
This topic and related issues will be part of the upcoming Professional Development Seminar in 2014. In the meantime, I'd like to share the experience so that others can learn and perhaps raise good questions. Stay tuned for more information.
The appraisers letter is copied below. I will be as transparent as possible, but discretion shall prevail as well (names and dollars have been removed) .
THE BEGINNING - AN EMAIL.
"Dear Ms. Berman,
I am a New York-based design and decorative arts appraiser and I'm currently appraising a piece of your work, Worry About Worry Beads Coming Undone (1997), for museum donation.
Given that you often sell directly to clients, I hoped you might be willing to provide your thoughts as to the current market value of the piece. It would be especially helpful if there are recent comparable sales, although I recognize this might be difficult. I have attached images of the necklace for your review.
The details are as follows:
Harriete Estel Berman (USA)
Worry About Worry Beads Coming Undone, Necklace, 1997
Printed tin, stainless steel
Bead Diameter: 3”; Cable coil length: 48”
3 ½” x 19 ½” x 17 ¼”
Thank you for your willingness to assist with this. I look forward to hearing back at your convenience.
(the appraisers name here)"
I was certainly flattered but her request opened some important issues. Consequently, my return email asked if we could have a phone conversation. For a variety of reasons, I needed
to learn more about where she was coming from as an appraiser. An email could not possibly cover the complexity of an appropriate answer. It would be quite informative to learn how she usually determined the value of an artwork as an appraiser. What information should be considered? How could a single number reflect past events and present environment. Such a complex situation! This will be the topic of the next post.
There was also the super amazing serendipity of the request since the theme of the upcoming Professional Development Seminar in 2014 had recently been chosen as "Collectors, Collections and YOU." This PDS will cover the topic of establishing value for your artwork, the secondary market, and getting your work into museum collections.
In my opening conversation with the appraiser I asked if it would be OK to share our discussion about the relevant issues of appraisal valuation on ASK Harriete. She agreed if discretion could be observed.
So I will reveal as much as I can in a series of posts.