Piano Restoration a Sound Investment

When you own something as melodiously beautiful and expensive as a Steinway piano there are factors to be aware of in the event of water damage.

Steinway & Sons Concert Grand Piano    Photo: © Copyright Steinway & Sons
Steinway & Sons Concert Grand Piano Photo: © Copyright Steinway & Sons

From a pipe leak to hurricane Sandy, OTE appraisers have found that water and moisture are among the most common and harmful types of damage to pianos.  Piano cases are made of wood and particularly susceptible to water damage but then so are most of the parts in the piano:  the felts, keys, soundboard, pin-block, tuning pins and strings, etc. Prolonged exposure to water can even lead to corrosion and rust in the metal components.

There is, however, a solution. When Alanna Butera, an OTE specialist appraiser, visited the original Steinway factory in Queens, she saw firsthand how Steinway pianos are built and restored.

Steinway & Sons, one of America’s leading piano manufactures, was founded in 1853 by German immigrant Henry Engelhard Steinway who began as a master cabinet maker.  By 1900 the factory had moved to Long Island City in Queens which is still operational today, and where pianos are built and repairs take place.

A Steinway Grand Piano can take over a year to build through handcrafting. Not only does a Steinway piano produce beautiful music, it is an excellent investment.  According to Reuters: “A 10 year old Steinway in good condition, usually sells for about 75 percent of the current retail price, which goes up about 4 percent each year;” that’s a lot better than your car. Steinway even issues a five year warranty on their repaired pianos, the same warranty they give to new pianos.

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A peek into Steinway’s Piano factory in Queens

From an appraisal standpoint, a damaged Steinway piano repaired by Steinway can be valued at 85% of the current retail price of a new one. But restoration isn’t cheap. In our experience the cost for a restoration caused by water damage is approximately $30,000 to $40,000 for a single grand piano.

On the positive side, what our appraiser observed at the Steinway factory is that you can be certain time and care is taken in restoration efforts.  When Steinway restores pianos they keep the cast iron block and original case, barring any extensive damage to either. They then refinish, re-guild and replace all the hardware with Steinway parts, entirely by hand. Steinway still continues to provide hand rubbed finishes. To maintain the value of a Steinway piano, restoration and replacements should be done solely by Steinway, using only their authentic parts. Steinway restorations come with a certificate, so if you are thinking of selling make sure to hold onto it.

Steinway calls their pianos a “sound investment” and we happen to agree.photo 1

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A Visit with Scotland Yard

Fortunately, I wasn’t under arrest when my fellow appraiser Ellen Epstein and I spent the morning in Scotland Yard last week.  We were in London for the Arts and Antiques PG Board Meeting, for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and were visiting Scotland Yard on official appraisal business.

scotland yard 2

At Scotland Yard my colleagues from RICS and I, met Detective Sergeant Claire Hutcheon, head of the “Organized and Economic Crime Command – Art & Antiques Unit.” Detective Hutcheon, an attractive woman who has worked for Scotland Yard for more than 14 years, discussed with us some of the experiences she had had in her career; but like much of police work un-publishable until the perpetrator is behind bars.

However, as representatives of RICS Personal Property/Art & Antiques Committee we were specifically interested in the professional standards for valuers (appraisers) in London. For example: what does it take to be taken seriously by the police if asked to value stolen or missing works of art?  Compared to the USA, Europe’s requirements for appraisers are far below those of US practitioners, something that is readily admitted by everyone in the London art world. In some countries there are no discernible standards at all. However, Detective Hutcheon mentioned that England and France were working towards an agreement that would raise the level of professional standards.

Change seems to be in the air. Those with whom we spoke – police, attorneys, non-profit organizations, and representatives of professional entities, stated that they hope for a tightening of the rules governing appraisals by independent appraisers.  We were told that at the moment, the only due diligence generally performed is through the Art Loss Register, which affirms whether a work has been stolen.

The view from the roof of the RICS building in Parliment Square, London

It is anticipated that this will change with the implementation of The Red Book, which would be an international source of regulations and standards for appraisers worldwide. This document would help to unify standards globally, whether dealing with real estate or fine art.  Even now regulations are being standardized internationally, as are the ethical rules imposed on all practitioners.  It may not be long before The Red Book becomes required reading for those internationally who have any participation in the world of art.

There are well over 160,000 RICS members worldwide and growing.  At the moment there are relatively few practitioners in America, but the world is opening up and I can see a future where there are singular and stringent regulations regarding good business practice in all nations. Sort of a One World concept, but not altogether so bad a thought.

Written by President Elin Lake-Ewald, Ph.D, ASA, FRICS, Certified Mediator

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Appraisal or Estimate? Why Free Is Not Always Better

I spoke with someone recently who told me how they got all their appraisals for “free” at auction houses. What they got were not really appraisals but estimates of value.

An estimate by an auction house will likely only reflect what the auction house believes the seller will receive at auction. These sorts of “appraisals” are not viable for insurance purposes and are not viable in court. Most art insurance policies rely on the retail replacement value, meaning the compensation would be for the retail value of an artwork, as opposed to the price at auction which is usually considerably lower than a retail value.

Estimate v

This article is by no means knocking auction houses, which have amazing experts and specialists, but it is important to understand that an auction house’s primary job is to sell art, and offering a free estimate is one way to draw in business.

If you go to an auction house and are not serious about selling with them but merely attaining a value this is probably not the best option for you. Although auction houses have a considerable amount of information at their disposal, they rarely have time to conduct extensive research into an artwork that is not being consigned to them. A free estimate is not necessarily giving your artwork the time and attention it deserves.

The case of Ravenna v. Christie’s in 2001 is a good example of relying too heavily on a free estimate. Guido Ravenna sued Christie’s as a result of his wife’s meeting with an Old Master Specialist at Christie’s in New York where she was given mistaken information about the provenance of the painting. The Old Master’s specialist, after only seeing photographs of the work during their short meeting, valued it at between $10,000 to $15,000, as he thought it appeared to be the work of minor 17th Century Italian painter, Nuvolone. Ravenna, then sold the work for $40,000 to a dealer who only months later consigned the work to Christie’s.

The Lamentation by Ludovico Carracci
The Lamentation by Ludovico Carracci

This is where it gets a little sticky. After the painting was examined again, it was determined to be a work not by Nuvolone but rather by Italian Baroque painter Ludovico Carracci, who is far more significant. The Lamentation, as it was renamed, was sold at auction in 2000 for $5,227,500 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where it now resides. Ouch.

Heritage Auctions does a good job of explaining how auction house appraisals/estimates work:

“Usually, the request for an “appraisal” actually refers just to an evaluation for the potential value of an item through auction or private sale… Heritage regularly provides quick and free evaluations of the current market value of art or collectibles. This is in the form of a verbal or written auction estimate — the range of value that one would expect to see the item sell for in today’s auction market. This valuation is not intended for use as a formal appraisal or for any purposes of establishing a value for insurance, tax, estate planning, collateral or third party transactions.” (Heritage Auctions)

If you want to divest an artwork quickly, auction houses are the way to go. But if you are serious about finding out about the value of something you own, make sure you get an authentic written appraisal from a USPAP certified appraiser.

Gold, Fine China, and the Truth About Tarnishing

Have you ever wondered what the word “gilding” means? It’s an ultra-sensitive and very beautiful decorative treatment that turns a surface into gold without actually creating something made of gold.

Gilding generally refers to the liquid gold applied through paint or other techniques to porcelain and other ceramics. The good news is that it looks lustrous and lovely when first applied.  The bad news is that it shows wear when used frequently and is sensitive to its environment. In fact, after working with a recent client an O’Toole-Ewald appraiser found that it doesn’t always require heavy usage to cause distress to gilding and that the saying that gold never tarnishes can be disproven.

Porcelain saucer with gilding
Porcelain saucer with gilding

About 20 years ago the client bought a beautiful bone china set decorated with extensive and intricate gilding. It had been placed in storage and when she recently retrieved it from the box in which it had been resting for two decades she found that the 24 carat gilding had taken on a red/black discoloration. Tarnishing film often looks red or black in appearance depending on what base metal is used, copper or silver respectively. However, it is extremely rare for high carats of gold to tarnish, so this case was at first a bit of a mystery.

While pure gold is not susceptible to tarnishing, almost all gold is mixed with some small percentage of other alloys, which can be vulnerable to tarnishing would only seen below 14 carats. In some cases 14 and 18 carats or even occasionally higher carats can tarnish, but it is extremely rare in gold as high as 24 carats.

If the base metals, in particular copper or silver, are exposed to corrosive agents, especially sulfur and oxygen compounds, tarnishing is entirely possible. Moisture, perspiration, perfumes, how you wash it, the water in which it is washed and even some foodstuffs can be responsible for the corrosion of gilding. But because the china in this case had never been used, it was unlikely that any of these were the culprits.

Two images tarnish china

Through expertise, persistence and considerable in-depth research, OTE was able to determine the prolonged exposure to the organic sulfur containing compounds in the storage bags, in combination to the oxygen and sulfur in the atmosphere, had caused the gilding to discolor. The damage was determined to be inherent vice resulting from the chemical reaction of the gilding in its storage containers.

This case is a rarity. In India and the Middle East, especially, there have been more incidents of the tarnishing of higher carat gold, which appears to be a problem more specifically linked to the region. In Europe and North America tarnishing in higher carats of gold is much more unusual. In the past 30 years, there has been only one other instance, filed with the manufacturer of this china, of red and copper discoloration occurring on the gilding. Without the persistent research efforts of OTE appraisers combined with scientific sleuthing, this case may not have been solved.

See this post on our website at http://www.otoole-ewald.com/blog/

Why It Is Important To Insure Your Art

In New York City Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call for many art enthusiasts to insure their art but there is still a lot of uninsured or under-insured art out there. According to Kathryn Tully in 2012 article for Forbes “the premium value of insured art globally was somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion. If those estimates are right, there’s a lot of uninsured art out there.”

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Many people have collections of art, or perhaps just one valuable piece but rarely know exactly what they are worth.  It is surprisingly easy for a painting, sculpture or even a more experimental piece of art to be damaged due to some unforeseen event, which is why it is important to be aware of its value. This summer alone there has been a significant amount of flooding in the tri-state area, and this has resulted in thousands of dollars in damages.

To protect your investment obtaining an appraisal of the retail replacement value means that you will be sure you have the right insurance coverage. The majority of standard home-owners insurance policies have limitations in regards to what can be reimbursed in the event of damage or loss to art and antiques.  So it is a good idea to look closely at your policy if you are not exactly sure what your insurance covers.

If you are a serious collector you will probably need a more specialized policy tailored specifically to your collection. Insurance companies that are particularly qualified for this are: AXA, Chubb, and AIG.  However, it is still important to be aware of your art’s value as the years progress.

The art market is continually fluctuating which is why it is a good idea to update these appraisals every couple of years. The value of your art will probably change with the shifting market. Unlike other luxury goods, such as a Chanel handbag or a BMW, a work of art is unique and difficult to replace.  This is why using an appraiser who is USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) certified and a member of the ASA, RICS, or ISA, is essential.  An appraisal by a qualified appraiser will be fully researched and legally sound. And always make certain, no matter who the appraiser is, that he or she has the right experience to evaluate the specific piece you own.

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July 2014 Museum Tour

Peter Paul Rubens, Adoration of the Magi, 1626-27
Peter Paul Rubens, Adoration of the Magi, 1626-27

Yesterday was  Sunday and I thought an appropriate day on which to visit the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA), expecting to see some brooding Renaissance paintings of saints and sinners, the cousins of which I remember seeing there a year or two ago on Broadway and 61st Street. Yes, it’s been that long, but it won’t be in the future.

Actually I went for a presentation by Mary Temple of light images which turned out to be way beyond what was expected. These are strangely beautiful  shadow paintings, images of the outlines of leafy trees cast against sides of buildings and interior walls, often with no light source at all, but deceptively realistic. And that’s what the artist is after -the trompe l’oeil effect. It’s quite lovely, extraordinarily painstaking work.

That is what is great about Manhattan – the unexpected bonus that comes with a casual visit to a not very well known (at least in the local art community) museum that has been around quite a while. The unexpected continued with the exhibition in the main gallery of “Back to Eden,” where the work of some of the art world’s better known practitioners was on display.

It was Eden all over the place, as interpreted by Jim Dine, Barnaby Furnas, Fred Tomaselli, Pipolotti Rist, Alexis Rockman and Adam Fuss, among several other artists who had taken on their personal  interpretation of what was really going on when Eve bit into the apple while the serpent smiled.

No, there are no photos of this exhibition. I was so taken aback by the show that I was three-quarters of the way to the Museum of Art & Design before I realized my mistake and my feet insisted I keep going.

I do have three photos from that show – well really shows, plural – since there are five floors of exhibits to wander through. One floor had selections made by the Director David McFadden from his 16 years as head of the museum. There was a tremendous amount of material to see, but frankly, it’s more than a little confusing to figure out who did what. The accompanying booklet didn’t really help and I didn’t see many people using it anyway.  Perhaps some minor changes will be made to clarify the viewing when the MAD Biennial continues its series of exhibitions examining “cultures of making in urban communities.” Cultures of making?  Does that mean creative work in various media? I think that’s what I saw.

Chelsea Art Walk 2014

Last night OTE’s team took advantage of the late gallery hours in Chelsea. Below are a few shows and works we found most noteworthy.

We all enjoyed seeing Tara Donovan’s enormous installation pieces at Pace Gallery.

Tara Donovan

In this work, the millions of acrylic pieces create a mesmerizing shimmer. The form recalls a fluffy puppy. A reaction to Jeff Koons, perhaps?

 

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald thought that Pierre Dorion’s trompe-l’œil paintings at Jack Shainman Gallery were riveting – about the best examples she saw on the walk.

Jack Shainman Gallery.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ewald found it not altogether surprising that most of the larger galleries closed on the Chelsea Art Walk last night. The art explorers wandering the streets, from 19th  to 26th, didn’t look quite up for a $30 million Christopher Wool or a $50 million Koons production. It was for the most part  the medium sized and smaller galleries who opened their doors (and occasionally their wine bottles), to the Gen X crowds.

The galleries we checked out for the most part had wall works (and sometimes floor works) in the $10,000 – $25,000 range. A well-thought out way to attract potential investors in art.  If a collector has the ability to pay just about anything for what he wants in his home(s) he can visit those spaces any day any time. Or send his art advisors. He doesn’t have to wait until working hours are over. Great strategy. Good show.

 

Julia Plotkin was intrigued by Nick Gentry’s paintings on mosaics of old floppy disks at C24 Gallery:

C24 Gallery

and by John M. Armleder’s mixed media glitter-covered paintings at Galerie Richard:

Galerie Richard

and also by Jerry Kearns’ wall paintings at Mike Weiss Gallery. Whoever buys one has the artist’s studio team come and repaint it in their space, à la Sol Lewitt.

Mike Weiss GalleryMike Weiss Gallery 2

Most of all, Julia loved the fare at Unix Gallery, which offered a box of chocolates by Peter Anton and a lollipop by Desire Obtain Cherish:

Peter Anton at Unix Gallery

Desire Obtain Cherish at Unix Gallery

 

 

Alanna Butera’s choice for the best curated exhibition goes to Procedural Portraiture at Caroline Nitsch Project Room. She was captivated by the intimate interaction between each artist’s exploration of faces, and the different use of media and line to reveal the inner essence of the subject.

Carolina Nitsch

Walking into Franklin Evans’ paintingassupermodel at Ameringer McErny Yohe, she was immersed into the artist’s mind and his artistic practice. The walls and floors were adorned with tape, digital prints and photographs.

 

Franklin Evans

 

As the sun set, however, the galleries closed their doors and the OTE team headed home.

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Appraisers’ Chatroom July 2014

Art fairs: just when everyone was saying there were too many of them, even in the summertime they won’t give us a rest. Received three invitations in one week to attend fairs in different European countries. How do they have the strength? Spoke to a young woman who’d been to a huge fair in Dubai and she says it was better organized than any she’d been to in US or Europe. I’ll take her word for it.

Stuart Davis, Untitled, ca. 1922, cat. no. 1480 © Estate of Stuart Davis, Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis, Untitled, ca. 1922, cat. no. 1480 © Estate of Stuart Davis, Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

OTE is not inviting you to an art fair. We don’t give them, just attend to check the pulse of the market. But for somewhat lighter entertainment we are going to share the link to our new website – no, not today – but soon. This is like a trailer before the show begins. It took a little extra time to receive permission from our artist clients or their estates to use their images. I hope you’ll find it was worth the wait.

Retrospective Appraisals

Each profession has its own complexities that require frequent clarification, not just for clients but for practitioners as well. In the appraisal field, one regulation that requires frequent clarification deals with past values.  This regulation governing retrospective appraisals seems to tempt appraisers into offering their own interpretations, but it should not.

A Retrospective Appraisal comes with an automatic stop sign once the effective date of valuation has been reached.  After that point, there can be no more data collection. How then can it be misinterpreted so often?

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The above is an excerpt from an article by Elin Lake-Ewald, Ph.D, ASA, RICS, June 2014.

To read the complete article please click here:

Retrospective Appraisals, June 2014

Appraisers’ Chatroom June 2014

A great way to keep me from reading an article, anywhere, anytime, is to title it “What is Art?”  I’ve been inundated by that question either online or in printed publications at least a thousand times – okay, maybe 15 times.

I would suggest that a more interesting question would be: “What isn’t Art?”

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I take this very seriously. What I figure would be a far more fascinating topic would be one that focuses on any animal, mineral, vegetable, inhuman or human thing, whatever, that cannot qualify as art or as a component of an artwork. Alternately: concepts that cannot be undertaken – ever – as the locus classicus of an experimental art project.

On the other hand no one can answer my question unless he can define what art is.  So “What is Art?”


I MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION BUT I MAY BE ABLE TO SURPRISE YOU

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