Collectors, Collections and You Feed

Generosity of Eye: Art Transformed into Education

Julia Louis-Dreyfus-Father-CollectorRecently I discovered this film about art collecting and thought it was worth recommending. The one-hour long video is about the father of actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus who has donated his art collection to fund education in Harlem.

Apart from the inspiring story of what he is doing with his collection, I am also delighted by the fact that he simply bought artwork that he loved as a patron of the arts. His collection was not driven by "market potential" or as a popularity contest.  He bought work that he enjoyed. His theme of interest was the act of painting. He especially enjoyed the relationships that he established with the artists.

In the video, the question is posed, "Why the H*** does he buy paintings?" The answer is quite sincere and much appreciated.  I only wish that he could have extended the discussion to include all art and craft media.

Generosity of Eye: Art Transformed into Education from brad hall on Vimeo.


P.S.  As a bonus, here is a LINK to a video clip of an interview with Julia Louis-Dreyfus on the Charlie Rose Show. IT WORKS! 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Charlie Rose speaks about her upcoming television comedy and her father's art collection and the movie "Generosity of Eye". Worth watching. Hopefully, the video should start at the correct spot. If not advance it to 35.41.


Art Documentaries Beyond Average, Be Inspired











Museums Save Ordinary as Extraordinary

Museums often collect the once ordinary that has become extraordinary and revealing. To imagine that something that would have been casually used everyday, never considered special or unique, perhaps even considered temporary or disposable, has survived 50 or 100 years or more is amazing. 

On this table in the background (at the top of the photo) the staff at The Magnes were laying out items for an upcoming exhibition.


These plates (in the photo below) connect to food. The plate above (left) says 'milk' and the plate below center says 'meat.' 


Labeled plates may seem odd to us since most people use different china patterns to remember which is the milk or meat plates to keep Kosher. The staff explained that these plates were from a restaurant where they didn't want to take a chance that the plates would be mixed up. But even more extraordinary, they actually had their original plastic wrap so that everyone would know they were clean.

Imagine plastic wrap lasting decades!

The Magnes even had old spice tins ready for the next exhibition.  While not valuable in the terms of a purchase price, a tin from Horowitz Margareten (a Kosher spice company) is almost impossible to find. 

I love spice tins....and have used them to construct some of my work.

Below is another utilitarian and pedestrian object from the past. Typewriter-Underwood-Manual-Hebrew-Yiddush

High tech in1923, but out dated since, this Underwood typewriter with lettering for Yiddush and Hebrew somehow avoided reclamation for scrap metal for 90 years. 


The typewriter is creatively used to display information in the exhibition at The Magnes Collection. 


In the above photo, Dr. Daniel Viragh, Post Doctoral Fellow at The Magnes, describes how he and his students searched the archives of The Magnes Collection at the Bancroft Library.

Hundreds of hours went into research of personal papers, letters and newspaper clippings from the 1940's and 50's. Ephemera that somehow survived 60+ years and now serves to offer insight in research. I wonder what will happen in the future when personal papers no longer exist, and everything is on the "old" computers hard drive, lost forever.

This is why museums like The Magnes Collection of Art and Culture provide such a valuable role.

Saving and collecting objects representing former times can become extraordinary if they have survived to share their history.  That is what The Magnes Collection is all about.

Your work could become part of a museum collection, especially if it represents something in our contemporary culture or captures a theme of our times. 

P.S. Tomorrow I will share some ordinary objects that had a significant impact on my work.

Museum Storage of the Collection at The Magnes Museum

The topic of how museum collections are stored has always fascinated me.  What do the museum professionals do with artwork and artifacts during the indefinite periods of time until the next exhibition? How do museum's protect their collections for the long term? 

After organizing the 2014 Professional Development Seminar "Collectors, Collection and YOU" with Brigitte Martin for the SNAG Conference, I was all the more curious for insights into how collectors and museums store their collections.

Fortunately, social networking recently fulfilled this dream as Dr. Daniel Viragh invited my daughter and me to view the collection and behind-the-scenes storage at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley, CA.   I immediately said "Yes, yes, yes."


Only a year or so ago, The Magnes moved into a newly renovated building in the heart of downton Berkeley.


The Magnes Collection is one of the largest collections of Judaica in the world. In fact, collecting and research is their primary focus. Now, as part of the University of California at Berkeley, they have a new home and renewed capabilities.

The new building houses most of the collection on site. The display areas are fascinating, of course, but to my special delight, the exhibition space includes built-in observation windows for visitors to view into the collection storage space (below). 


Those large beige steel monoliths in the background of the photo above, are enormous movable cabinets on rollers with adjustable shelves and drawers. Because the storage cabinets move, valuable space can be dedicated to storage, and only one walkway is open at a time.


Storage is serious business for a museum. They take this responsibility very seriously. The investment in the collection merits an investment in the storage equipment as well.  For example, all the steel cabinets were on tracks.  In these photos, look just behind the registrar's feet. Notice the track in the floor which enables these cabinets to slide across the floor. They can move to be closely packed yet open up a walkway and access space as needed into more drawers and cabinets.


At the push of a button, the registrar, Julie Franklin, moved an entire cabinet, and opened drawer after drawer for us to see the contents. (More about the items in the cabinets in a future post.)  

Curator, Dr. Francesco Sagnolo, opened a few more cabinets just to offer us a taste of the treasures contained within. 


The variety of mechanisms and devices to store the vast diversity of works in the collection was amazing. 


Of course, the entire room was climate controlled. It felt refreshingly cool and dry.


Inside the drawers were marvelous antiquities and historic objects, all protected for posterity.


Notice that each object is nestled in it's own protective cubby made from foam and cardboard so it can't move around.


Every item has an inventory/acquisition number which corresponds to The Magnes Collection Flickr album of the collection.  In this drawer the cups with multiple handles were for ritual hand washing. The multiple handles allow the user to switch hands.

Note the paper tags in the above photo. The registrar didn't even want the paper to touch the metal to avoid a reaction between the two materials. She would try to prop the paper tag on the edge of the cubby.


Some objects were stored on shelves to make them more accessible for viewing without opening a cabinet or drawer.


Every object on a shelf had a custom made foam core box so it could not move or fall over.

If the curator wanted to look more closely at some object, he could pick up the foam core support and padding without actually touching the object. 


Our special guide, Dr. Daniel Viragh, Post Doctoral Fellow at The Magnes, earned his doctorate in Jewish History from UC Berkeley. He could read the Hebrew for us on 100-200 year old textiles and provided very knowledgeable context for many objects.  

Tomorrow's post and for the next few days ....objects from The Magnes Collection, many more surprises and insights regarding the storage of museum collections.

P.S. -Post-ScriptI will be lecturing at The Magnes Collection on October 29, 2014 at noon.  Please come to this short lecture, and  participate in the intimate conversation.


Related Posts: 

Tzedakah Boxes at The Magnes Collection

The Magnes Museum Collection Cradles Extraordinary Objects and Textiles

Museums Save Ordinary as Extraordinary


Countless Hours of Advocacy

Photography-In-Flux-Niche-Marketing-VerticalHave you ever thought about the countless hours speakers spend preparing the content of their presentations. That is the finale of a year or years of preparation. Every year, the Professional Development Seminar Committee worked for 12 months prior to the Conference to develop an informative program and group of speakers.

Initially, I wondered  how a wider audience could benefit from this amazing resource beyond the immediate three-hour program at the Conference.  It became obvious that if the presentations were posted online (with the permission of the speakers), they could serve as a recurring resource for years to come.  

Purple-Cow-5-presentations-verticalFor the past five years I have posted presentations from the Professional Development Seminar.  These presentations, given during the annual SNAG Conferences, provide valuable information useful for the entire arts and craft community. 

That was the early premise and hope.  But would it really work?

I am happy to report that after five years of postings, the online presentations recently achieved over 200,000 views! That is a testament in itself.  

This spring the original presentations along with audio moved to YouTube as videos.

ShippingVerticalIt was a lot of work and I desperately needed help to get this job done. 

Casey Sharpe stepped up and volunteered. She was instrumental in converting the original PowerPoints and audio recordings into video which were uploaded to YouTube. This tremendous resource would not have been available if it weren't for Casey's volunteer hours to make this happen.  

I'd like to express my deep appreciation for Casey's efforts. "Thank you, Casey."

After working with Casey Sharpe for the past three months, I thought that it was time to learn more about her work with a few questions. Tomorrow  is a special feature interview with Casey and comments about her work. The titles for her work are very interesting. See what you think? Stay tuned until tomorrow.

P.S. The Professional Development Seminar is looking for a person who is interested in editing the audio recordings of one more seminar; "Collectors, Collections and YOU" from the Minneapolis SNAG Conference. 2014. Would you be interested in helping?

Learn the fundamentals of audio editing, and work with me closely for a month or two to bring seven lectures to the arts and crafts community from the recent Professional Development Seminar. Leard how to edit audio (if you don't know how.) Listen to the valuable information from our speakers. Become informed. Be an advocate for the arts and crafts community.
Collector's CollectionsYou-Blue

"Previously Owned By . . ." ADDS Value IF you have the Provenance

W5196h_ Pearl_Peridot_Pendant
Pretty antique jewelry abounds in the secondary market -- unless it has provenance.  A documented special story can change this pretty ordinary-appearing necklace to extraordinary.

W5196_pearl_peridot_pendant_1496_generalThis necklace (left) was previously owned and worn by Edna Thornton (1875 - 1958). Edna was an English contralto who sang with the Beecham and British National Opera Companies in the early 1900's.

"A fine and impressive antique Victorian 6.98 carat peridot, 0.36 carat diamond, natural pearl and seed pearl 15 carat yellow gold pendant and necklace;  AC Silver antique jewellery and estate jewelry collections tells me that a great story can generate  revenue.

W5196 _Edna_ Thornton
Does your work have a good story? Do you keep Inventory Records to establish provenance?


Below is another example where the provenance, the story, significantly impacts both the price and the marketing. 
This  bow pin looks like one of many precious gem bow pins available for purchase, but it has provenance.  In this case it was owned by Jacqueline Kennedy -- with documentation to prove it.  "Previously sold through Sotheby's in 2005", Caroline Kennedy writes that the items being sold belonged to her parents and were "part of their years at the White House." 

We don't know the price.  Currently listed on line as Price on Request, it is one of those questions where if you have to ask you can't afford it, but we do know that the provenance certainly affects value.

Who will own your work now and in the future? How will that impact the value of your work? 

Daphne Farago purchased these bracelets off my wrist, literally. She didn't want any other example of my jewelry. That had value to her. 
That is also how my tin bracelets landed in the Permanent Collection at the Museum Fine Art, Boston.

How is your story working toward your professional success? 

Attend the Professional Development Seminar as part of the SNAG Conference, or come for just one day. Learn more about our entire line up of eight speakers. 

Deborah Boskin, Appraiser at Bonham's  will be talking about the resale market and determining value.

Donna Schneier is part of our spectacular conclusion as she speaks about her jewelry collection and donating it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Racine Art Museum and more.

Ulysses Dietz, curator at the Newark Museum offers insight into the museum collection. How do they select work for their collection? Why?

Are you ready to take notes? What if you can't come?  Just in case, we will have live blogging by Lindsey Snell posting on Tumbler, Twitter and the Professional Development Facebook page.  Follow our feed today.

Lineage, Provenance, Maker Marks, & Macchiarini

Recently I discovered this brooch on an online site selling 20th-century jewelry. I recognized it immediately as mid-20th-century modernist jewelry by Peter Macchiarini, a San Francisco legend. 

It was described as, "Important Peter Macchiarini studio brooch of sterling silver, brass, ebony and bone inlay. The brooch is quite large and measures 3" by 4". "

In the photo below you can see it was signed "Macc" on the back.
The description says: "In excellent vintage condition.  Price is $3,450"

To complicate this story, below is a pair of earrings I purchased at an antique/flea market. There is a remarkable similarity to the Macchiarini brooch. The white dots of bone or ivory go all the way through the black of the ebony(?) to the other side. The earrings are marked Sterling. Notice the similarity in construction to the Macchiarini brooch with the sterling wire extending beyond the circle. Definitely, "in the style of Peter Macchiarini." The price?

I paid 50 cents because the lady selling the earrings thought that no one would want to wear these earrings.

The Macchiarini Studio still exists in San Francisco only a few doors down from the original location. It is run by Daniel Macchiarini (son of Peter Macchiarini and grand-daughter of Peter Macchiarini.)

Until his father's passing Daniel worked closely with his father . . . and there is renewed interest in his father's work. A third example is shown below: 


Sterling, ebony, ivory and brass dot ring by Peter Macchiarini; created in the 1990s in collaboration with Daniel Macchiarini; top is approximately 7/8" x 5"; ring is about size 10-1/2; marked: "MACC;" fine condition. On M.Schon   $1,450

What determines the price of each item?

Why is it so hard to find Peter Macchiarini jewelry in the secondary market as compared to other 20th century modernists?

Macchiarini-Studio-Contructivist-Brooch-Stamped-Mac Macchiarini-Earrings-Question Peter-Macchiarinin-Dot-Ring





How does the identity of the maker affect value and price? What are the factors that cause similar appearing works to be valued from $0.50 to $3,000.

EXTRA: Daniel Macchiarini  sent me additional information about the "Dot" series. If you are interested please contact me, and I will send you this background information.   




What is the Value of Your Work?

Harriete Estel Berman standing in front of her artwork at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
Have you ever wondered ...

What are key considerations when art or craft is accepted into a collection?

What is the value of that particular work to a collector or collection?

Does having artwork in a collection actually affect the value of future work?

These questions delve into the myriad issues of value. Price is not the sole determinant of value. Materials are not the sole determinant of value. The amount of time you put into making a piece has little to do with its perceived value.

In fact, the value of a particular piece may vary depending on different contexts, situations or people.

In the post "Most of all, money is a story", Seth Godin says:

“Five dollars to buy a snack box on an airplane is worth something very different than five dollars to buy a cup of coffee after a fancy meal, which is worth something different than five dollars in the grocery store. That's because we get to pretend that the five dollars in each situation is worth a different amount--because it's been shifted.”


Deganit-Stern Schocken Me Uchim. NYTAs artists and makers trying to sell our work, we often talk about price and value in the same sentence, but they are not the same thing.

The necklace to the left is attributed to Deganit-Stern Schocken Me Uchin.* 

It is made from crushed tin cans without any effort at refined craft skill.  

Below is a necklace by Mary Lee Hu.* It is finely woven from gold.

Both necklaces are made by contemporary art jewelers. Each makes a statement about value of materials, and craftsmanship. Both are in the Newark Museum collection. I can't wait to hear what Ulysses Dietz has to say at the SNAG Professional Development Seminar about this work and other pieces in their collection.

Are there actions that artists can take to increase the value of their work? 


Guilds: Are You Looking Inward or Outward?

Several presentations for the upcoming Professional Development Seminar focus on the "grass roots collection." By using the term "grass roots collection" I mean artists or craftspeople playing an active role in collecting work of other artists and makers.

Ohio-Designer-Craftsmen-logoOne stellar example that I discovered is the Ohio Designer Craftsmen. This craft guild has been in operation for 50 years. In 1993 they purchased their own building, and started the Ohio Craft Museum. The Ohio Designer Craftsmen also has a collection of 400-500 objects from members of the Ohio Designer Craftsmen or citizens of Ohio. Ohio-Craft-Museum-logo

For the recent interview on Metalsmith Bench Talk, I invited Betty Talbott to start the conversation about their guild collection.Betty Talbott is the Director of the Ohio Craft Museum and Artistic Director of the Ohio Designer Craftsmen.

The Ohio Designer Craftsmen sponsors four retail shows a year generating revenue for the participants and income for the museum operating expenses. They also have a gift shop, sponsor workshops and programming for their community. along with exhibitions at the Ohio Crafts Museum.

Listen to the archived interview on Jay Whaley Metalsmith Bench Talk where Betty talks about the guild and their collection. She says "guilds tend to look inward to help their members,"  but the success for the Ohio Designer Craftsmen is that they look outward to their community. If they educate their community, it serves the craft artists. 

Artists and makers consider her words of experience. Think about how your local guild can create more opportunities, starting a collection, or hosting retail shows.

Creative Commons License
Harriete Estel Berman by ASK Harriete is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

Why Is This Necklace Worth $602,000?

Are you signing or stamping your work?

Are you keeping Inventory Records for your work?

Do you own work by your friends or colleagues? 

Is an auction of your work in your future?

Calder-Estate-Aino-Alvar Aalto

As artists and makers it is important to understand that the value of our work can extend far beyond quality, materials, or tour de force craftsmanship. The identity of the maker can be of significant importance along with clear history or provenance.



Collectors want to know that the work is genuine, not a fake or a copy. This is where you records and documentation are proof.

CALDER-SPIRAL-nECKLACEThis Calder necklace was owned by Finnish designers and architects Aino and Alvar Aalto as a reflection of their friendship and close working relationship. 

This stamped Calder necklace with provenance (a great story) sold at auction for $602,000. Read  this article from Christie’s  has a phenomenal example.

Can these factors work for your work?

This is why the SNAG Professional Development Seminar will be addressing these issues in “Collections, Collectors, and You.

Listen to this Metalsmith Bench Talk interview for insight about maker's mark, and collecting with Harriete Estel Berman  and Betty Talbott.

This interview will be offering unique insight into guild "grassroots" collections from Betty Talbott, the Director of the Ohio Craft Museum and Artistic Director of the Ohio Designer Craftsmen. Don't miss this special program. 

AND while I am addressing this topic, the identity of the maker may be important on a personal level as well. Stamping your work with your maker’s mark, may be important to your children, grandchildren and future generations.  

Collector's, Collections and Your Art Work

The upcoming SNAG Professional Development Seminar is focusing on the idea that your work is important.  Your art or craft can be significant to the present and the future of your field. 


I know that sounds like lofty words, but if you don't think your work is important who will? 

Then you might be asking... 

  • What are those steps you need to take as a maker to create a place in history?
  • How do you place your work in a collection?
  • How does a collector look at work? 
  • How does work get donated to a museum collection?
  • What criteria does a museum have in mind when they accept work for their collection?  
  • So many questions to ask.

This is the focus for...
"Collectors, Collections and You"

Friday, April 25, 2013.
1:30 to 5:00 p.m. 

The Professional Development Seminar has lots of ideas to open your eyes to seeing your work in a new way. 

But you don't have to wait! 
You can listen in to a preview of the PDS
 chock full of information in an interview on Jay Whaley Metalsmith Bench Talk with me, Harriete Estel Berman  and Betty Talbott. Betty Talbott is the Director of the Ohio Craft Museum and Artistic Director of the Ohio Designer Craftsmen. They have an extensive collection of member works and are a stellar example of "grassroots" collections.


Your work may have value to your family, the history of your guild, academic program, or a museum. Start with your Maker's Mark, & Inventory Records as a foundation.

Look at the line up of speakers here.

Register for the PDS at the SNAG conference here.


It is also possible to purchase a one day pass for the day of the Professional Development Seminar.

1001 Marquette Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN


This is my maker's mark (above).
Are you wondering why it looks like a domestic iron?




Creative Commons License
Harriete Estel Berman by ASK Harriete is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

Discretion Has Value Beyond $$ Visibility

You might have noticed that the previous posts in this series about appraising value for a artwork has not included names and dollar numbers. While my personal and professional approach emphasizes transparency, there are times when the discretion and confidentiality has value.

The collector's donation of my work to a museum has been in the works for years, yet the appraiser would not mention or discuss the names of the collector or the museum. Even though I knew the name of the collector, and shared this information in our conversation, the appraiser would not confirm or deny this information.

Her commitment to anonymity  and discretion reflects her responsibility and professionalism.

Antique-bar-scaleI already knew that the collector preferred to remain as non-public as possible from previous correspondence, but to think that it could not be mentioned in a private conversation surprised me.

Sometimes, we must respect the wishes of others, even if it appears to sacrifice visibility to gain other benefits.  In this case, I have foregone the publicity that a famous collector has purchased my work to gain that collector's trust over the past 16 years.  It would have been advantageous on my resume, but a confidential relationship with the collector has value beyond visibility.

Most collectors prefer to remain anonymous. And the bigger the collector, the more likely they prefer to remain unexposed to uncontrolled visibility in the age of the internet.

Consequently, when I see artists and makers itemize the names of collectors of their work on their resumes or websites, this is a gigantic red flag.

Did the collectors approve such public revelations?  

Based on my experience, artists and makers should never publicly identify a collector's name without permission. It also gives me the hibbie jibbies when I see articles and blogs about unsolicited contacting of your collectors.

There is a very fine line that must be decided on a case by case basis. If you get to know the collectors who have purchased your work, that is great. An email now and then, may be welcomed. Sure ask them if they be mentioned on your resume or website.

At the same time, the collectors of your work may have a different perspective and not want to receive unsolicited emails, musings, newsletters or public mentions. There is no one approach, but if the collectors think your correspondence sounds needy, self promoting, or over abundant, you could easily burn that bridge.

PREVIOUS POSTS in this series:

What Information is Needed for Appraising Value?

Appraisers Approach to Appraising Value

What Information is Needed for Appraising Value?

As mentioned in the previous post,
an appraiser contacted me about appraising the current value for a 1997 work recently donated by a collector to a major museum.  In response, I asked for an appointment to have a phone conversation. The phone call felt more like a necessity than an option. Thank goodness we opened the discussion. I was concerned about asking for the phone call, but the appraiser actually appreciated the nuanced conversation the phone call offered.

My primary goal was to help the appraiser to establish a current value using whatever information she requested. Hopefully it would justify an appreciated value since 1997. I had a number in mind, but didn't want to say so until the appraiser considered the factors I thought relevant to this situation.

While prices for recent work may be a consideration, the appraiser needs to compare recently SOLD work. That is just the way it works.

Harriete-Estel-Berman-websiteThe images of my artwork on my website were instrumental to the conversation with the appraiser.  I do leave "sold" work on my website for documentation, but remove the prices. However, I know the retail prices from my Inventory Records. 

Initially, the appraiser was looking only at my jewelry, perhaps because of the size of the individual beads, or it was the first page she landed on. 

Harriete-Estel-Berman-website-sculptureIn my mind this was not a good comparison since I considered the Worry About Worry Beads Coming Undone to be sculpture, and not jewelry at all. The conversation moved to sculpture for further evaluations. On the sculpture page, there were many examples of work that had sold in recent years. These provided better value comparisons.

Teapot-Page-Harriete-Estel-BermanNext we moved to the teapot page to establish that Worry About Worry Beads Coming Undone was profoundly influential on the design for many of my teapots that had sold at similar or much higher prices.  



My objective was to establish the importance of the Worry Beads as a seminal artwork that had an important influence on the design of several teapots.

1 Worry-Beads-Inspires-Teapot TeaConsuming_full72

Since the Worry Beads were completely unique, there was no identical work to compare. 

Finally, I mentioned that the Worry Beads sculpture was composed of 12 individual and unique worry beads, plus the wire "tassel." So one perspective could consider a value for each individual element and what I would charge for repair or replacement.

To conclude the conversation,  the scary part, she asked me to estimate a number.
I gave my current valuation, but still don't know the final appraised value....perhaps she went higher or lower, but I do know she appreciated the extra information from our phone call to inform her decision.

In summary the appraisal value was determined by these main factors:

  • Type of work: sculpture.
  • The specific work was seminal to subsequent work.
  • Retail prices for sold work with somewhat similar attributes (e.g. materials, size, concept, novelty).
  • Cost of replacement or repair by artist.
  • Establishing that other work sold for much higher prices.
  • Reputation of the artist.

If an artist/maker is represented by a gallery, the appraiser may have contacted the gallery instead of the artist. Since no gallery currently represents my work, the appraiser contacted me directly.

A secondary goal for my conversation with the appraiser involved some learning about appraising artwork in general.  The 2014 SNAG Professional Development Seminar in Minneapolis will have lectures by an appraiser, collector, and curator all discussing "Collectors, Collections and You."

Stay tuned for more PDS information. Opportunities related to this program are on the horizon. This will be a series of lecture offering great insight into establishing value for our art and craft. Save the date Friday April 25, 2014. The PDS is open to the public to attend.

Appraisers Approach to Appraising Value

Worry About Worry Beads Coming Undone by Harriete Estel BermanNot 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.

1 Worry Bead by Harriete Estel Berman from recyled tin cans 72But 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) .


"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.
Best regards,
(the appraisers name here)"
Worrying Upon Worry Coming Undone Worry Beads in a box from the collector waiting to be appraised. Worrying Upon Worry Beads Coming Undone by Harriete Estel Berman donated to a museum collection waiting appraisel


ASK-red-yellowI 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.