Appraising Contemporary Paintings

How is the value of an artwork determined? This is a question I get often when appraising contemporary paintings. Of course, values can vary enormously and the broad differences are sometimes obvious. There are many superstar names that command millions while millions of lesser known artists command only hundreds.

But within each spectrum, various factors come into play that determine the value at which a painting might be appraised. Let’s focus on artworks that are not in the upper stratosphere but rather, paintings that are more common to an average collector.

The most common factors an appraiser will evaluate are the artist’s reputation and sales history, the medium, size, subject matter, date of creation, provenance and condition.

An artist with a strong sales history offers a good basis from which to start, as value parameters have been established by the marketplace. However, an artist’s creations can vary greatly and these variations can influence values. For example, will a landscape scene painted by an artist known for abstracts be of similar value to his / her abstract work? Probably not – because the subject and the essence of the painting is an important factor that has been established within the marketplace.

What about the date of creation? The point of creation in an artist’s career can play an important role. We sometimes see earlier works by an artist being more valuable than later works. This can seem counterintuitive but some collectors will find more value in early works that were more “edgy” when the artist was willing to take risks before he / she settled into a safe zone of consistent sales within a certain style. The reverse can be true as well, where an artist’s skill and maturity become more valued as time goes on. A painting associated with a particular art movement may also increase value.

The medium can be tricky, but in general, paintings created with oil or acrylic on canvas tend to bring more value than a watercolor on paper, especially if done by the same artist fluent in both mediums. But again, there are exceptions to this which is why it is important to have appraiser who understands the nuances. And of course, size can often be a determining factor, all other things being equal.

For expert and credentialed assistance in appraising contemporary paintings for insurance or estate purposes, please contact Richard Associates Art Appraisals for a free consultation.