O’Toole-Ewald is excited to introduce a four part series of monthly newsletters focusing on some of the most important artists on the market today: Mark Rothko, David Hockney,Frank Stella and Roy Lichtenstein.
On the most basic level, starting a collection in photography requires thought about the type of photography you actually like. Possible categories could include black and white, color, landscapes, nudes, living, vintage, documentary etc. Movements in photography are also good ways to define what you are looking for (Modernism, Pictorialism, War Photography etc). This seems simple but knowing how to define what you like is the first step to making successful purchasing decisions. Each of these different categories or movements will have specific knowledge associated with each.
Deepening your knowledge in these areas will help one develop an “eye.” Having an eye for art can come naturally for some but usually it requires years to perfect and is often difficult to obtain and maintain, even for appraisers. For this reason seeing accurate documentation on anything you purchase, and keeping accurate documentation yourself – how you obtained it and when, should be a priority. Building a written inventory will ultimately save you a lot of headaches later on should you want to sell, or the work is stolen or damaged.
As art experts for the Public Administrator of New York, who handles estates without a will, we experienced just such an issue. Two senior appraisers from OTE were going through piles of mixed objects removed from the apartments, which included jumbles of furniture, framed artworks, collectibles, libraries and miscellaneous materials. Spread across several work tables, was a huge mass of what appeared to be old Kodak film boxes.
Looking through the meticulously maintained photographs, an anomaly considering the rest of the disheveled apartment, they had inadvertently stumbled upon the work of a real artist. Without OTE the collection of photographs by Harry Shunk and Janos Kender, great documentarians of the Paris/New York art scene in the second half of the 20th century, might never have been discovered. The director of a major French museum and those of American museums and film societies arrived to review and the Public Administrator was persuaded to set up an auction for the photographs to be sold as one gigantic lot rather than dispersing them overtime.
Excitingly The Lichtenstein Foundation, thanks to Dorothy Lichtenstein and Jack Cowart, acquired the massive collection at auction for $2 million. After this the foundation began the collating the collection and set up a system to allocate segments of the collection to many museums worldwide. The photographs are now considered invaluable in recording the history of major artists of the second half of the 20th century. A triumphant conclusion to what had almost become a treasure lost forever.
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In honor of Thanksgiving, a holiday with a distinctly foodie focus, we thought it might be fun to have a blog post dedicated to our experiences with food art.
Unsurprisingly throughout art history food has been the subject of many a painting/ sculpture/print/wood carving, and, let’s be honest every other kind of medium. Recent times have shown that it is more than just a subject. Contemporary artists have transcended merely depicting food to using it. Take Rirkrit Tiravanija’s conceptual installation/performance piece untitled (Free). Originally shown at 303 Gallery in 1992, it was recreated at MoMA as part of the Contemporary Galleries: 1980–Now installation in 2012. The exhibition converted a gallery into a kitchen where the artist served rice and Thai curry, using food as the medium with which to create art and a unique visitor experience. This piece is not alone. In 1958 during the exhibition The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility, The Void Yves Klein served blue- cocktails to gallery visitors asking them to literally consume the artwork. Vik Muniz, a Brazilian artist is well known for his chocolate syrup drawings, one of which was of the Leonardo’s ”Last Supper.”
However, OTE has found that there are some unique challenges for owners of art using material as short-lived as food.
One of OTE’s many memorable appraisals, this case featured an artwork made of white, milk and dark chocolate and ink jet print laid on canvas. The damage was the result of a gust of wind that had caused fragile portions of chocolate to separate completely from the canvas. Sadly, the lost pieces of chocolate were not recovered. This was not the only damage the appraisers discovered. In one corner there was evidence of a mouse having nibbled on the yummy artwork. In this case the artist had intended for the work to “evolve,” which actually allowed for the loss of some of the chocolate and tampering from rodents and other animals. Less cute was the appearance of mold on other parts of the piece. The extent of the damage meant that it would need restoration, and ultimately sustain a substantial loss in value. Restoration required consolidating and re-adhering lifting/peeling areas of the material; unfortunately both costly and time consuming.
Another dilemma au chocolate involved a painting where the artist had stuck M&M’s to canvas, covering them in resin, and using them to dye the surrounding surface. Some of the M&M’s had become damaged (as seen in the picture below) and we had to determine whether this was the result of some sort of accidental damage or whether it was the inherent vice of the materials (i.e. the result of the materials themselves). Research included some interesting conversations with a confused and curious customer service representative from Mars (the company that owns M&M). From her reaction we gathered that Mars did not often get questions like: what is an optimum temperature for an M&M? How long does the dye on an M&M last? How long would it take an exposed M&M to deteriorate, and what would this be if say the M&M were covered in, hypothetically, something like resin?
What we found out was that once you open the bag, Mars pretty much doesn’t care what happens to M&M’s and really doesn’t like to speculate. What could be extrapolated was that in the bag M&M’s should be stored at around 70 degrees in a cool dry place and that when exposed to heat M&M’s were likely to deteriorate more quickly. Probably, the Mars rep grudgingly admitted, it wasn’t a stretch to say that M&M’s were indeed likely to deteriorate naturally over time, even when covered in resin. Following this data collection process, and our examination of the piece it was determined that it was the inherent vice of the M&M’s that was responsible for the loss. Mice, it seems, were not as industrious as our previous case had led us to believe.
If you choose to own something as wonderfully transient as art made with food, expectations of the work should follow accordingly. You may have to face the fact that something wants to eat it.
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The separated head and torso looked disconcertingly familiar to me when they appeared in a photo on the front page of The New York Times on Sunday, November 9th. “Recreating Adam, From Hundreds of Fragments, After the Fall.”
The history of how it happened, the secrecy that ensued, the resurrection, and finally, revelation is the plot of this terrifying tale of Tullio Lombardo’s great Renaissance marble masterpiece. I hadn’t felt able to speak about it in detail for 12 years. A promise is a promise.
After the fall, when the initial horror of the museum staff had worn off, but only slightly, a few of us, engineers , technicians and art specialists, were called upon to render professional opinions about what had gone wrong and what was going to be done about it. I and a colleague from this firm were led, as if to a chamber of horrors, into the conservation laboratory where the sculpture lay, shattered yet still magnificent .
The papers write of it as if it had been scattered in a thousand fragments across the marble floor of the Velez Blanco Patio at the Met, but I remember it as retaining recognition as a very late 15th century Lombardo, head and much of the torso and one leg intact. I can’t recall exactly because I had to turn over all my photographs immediately after our report was rendered. Those were the days before digital where nothing dies. I guess those were the “28 recognizable pieces” that Met conservator Jack Soultanian mentioned in the newspaper article. The rubble had been bagged and identified.
From time to time, from hushed voices, we learned a little about what was going on in the lab, but very little. Massive amount of research were undertaken by this firm and we traced the sculpture back to its original site. The Renaissance scholar on staff, Leatrice Mendelsohn, was amazing in her pursuit of all the critical information required to help me arrive at a value of the sculpture before the fall and how much the piece had lost in value because of the damage.
A few months later I sat at an endlessly long wood table in a secluded section of the Met of which I had not been previously aware, facing what seemed to be an endlessly long line of dark suited attorneys representing the multiple organizations and firms involved in the disaster. Oddly enough, I don’t remember being scared because I was so overwhelmed by the grandeur of the setting, with light streaming down behind the group of what appeared to be judge types sitting to my left. I felt like it was an old Warner Brothers film about the trial of Charles the First.
Okay, not to prolong this because, after all, I survived and am writing this blog now. I mean, I wasn’t the one at fault anyway. I didn’t push Adam off his pedestal. The fact that its six foot three, one thousand pound marble body had been standing for so many years on a modest wooden pedestal might have had something to do with the disaster.
So it was with relief that I found that the Met has decided to open the floodgates of information, always a wise course to take, and one that suddenly seems in favor at major museums nationally. So much better than having misinformation leaking out in bits and pieces and that can prove far more detrimental than a simple admission and explanation.
I wonder if reality shows have been influencing all of us.
Written by Elin Lake-Ewald
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OTE’s founder was an unusual man; born in Baltimore in 1895 to an American mother, James St. Lawrence O’Toole brought to the art world the charm of his father, the Irish air attaché to the U.S., and former World War I flying ace. He studied at Trinity in Dublin, after which he spent several years in Europe where he worked for Jacques Seligmann et Fils. Between this and his travels back and forth between the States and Paris that he gained his extensive knowledge in fine and decorative arts. During this time he worked at the Hotel de Sagan in Paris and at the New York branch at 5 East 57th Street.
Shortly before the Second World War hit he met and later married the opera singer, Diodata Dandi, who had come to the States to teach belle canto voice to Americans at the Peabody Institute. Not long after James St. L. O’Toole joined the army and became a member of O.S.S. (the forerunner to the CIA) parachuting into France at one point and evading capture as a spy. A historical novel about the time, Surrounded by Howard Burman, claims that at some point O’Toole even posed as an “art consultant” to Herman Göring in Switzerland until he was discovered after trying to pass off a fake Vermeer painting. While we can’t confirm or deny this but it certainly adds to the legend that is James St. Lawrence O’Toole.
After the war ended he returned to a more sedate life in New York. He and his wife had purchased a town house and began an association with the Paul Reinhardt Gallery. In 1932 he established his own eponymous gallery that later morphed into O’Toole-Ewald Art Associates, Inc. His clients included celebrities in both the worlds of society and politics. Lawrence O’Toole also testified in a number of high profile art trials during the 1930 and 40s.
By the 1980s when Elin Lake-Ewald became a partner and the organization had offices in Manhattan and Venice, where James O’Toole lived half the year. His friends and associates came from nearly every country on the globe and when he died in 1988 the rooms of the American-Irish Historical Society were crowded with those who had benefited from the many years of his wisdom and words and his vast knowledge of the wide world of art.
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Opening night at the Print Fair brought crushing crowds and some amazing power on paper!
A growing market for early 20th century British printmakers seemed to grow exponentially as several dealer booths focused on displays by Sybil Andrews, CRW Nevinson, Claude Flight, Margaret Barnard, Cyril Edward Power, and Lill Tschude, much admired but scarcely known in the US. Prices ranged from the low $30,000s to over $100,000, so it’s clear that there is as strong market for these vigorously colored linocuts. Kempner Gallery appeared to have the largest selection.
Equally striking, but in the most subtle of ways, was an unusual series of eight silkscreens by Fred Sandbeck priced at $25,000. Famed for his string sculptures, these prints showed the varied configurations of a structure of strings as if it were in motion. At Diane Villani, publisher.
At Barbara Krakow was another series of nine geometric black and white silkscreens from a set of ten (I still can’t figure that out), by Sol Lewitt, from 1982, and also priced at $25,000.
So much to see and so much to remember, but two prints whose images remain with me: an engraving by William Black of Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrimage for $60,000 at the Fine Art Society of London, and at Hill-Stone an etching of Death and the Knight, a beautiful impression, for $225,000.
This year may have brought in the largest group of non-American dealers that I can remember, and certainly a great number of non-New York dealers, a good many from Chicago. Definitely a sense of energy and excitement prevailed, but the increase in prices for prints was discernible. Perhaps, at any price, prints can be made to seem like near giveaways in the light of the prices at the auction sales currently going on.
Written by Elin Lake-Ewald, Ph.D, ASA, FRICS
“A True Photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.” – Ansel Adams
While this holds true in the visual appreciation of a photo, when purchasing at auction you may want to be a little more loquacious. At a lecture in conjunction with Heritage’s October photography auction in New York City, OTE staff picked up some tips for collecting photographs. Rachel Peart, Heritage Director of Photography and Alice Sachs, the President of Art + Business Partners and an avid collector of photography, stressed a number of elements important for buyers to evaluate, whether purchasing from an auction or private sale.
The market for photography has remained relative stable over the last couple of years and as of June of this year ArtTactic reported the overall confidence in the market increased by 9 percent. Sales at auction have also increased. The Modern Photography market saw a 22 percent increase and the Vintage photography market had a particularly large increase of 125 percent, while the market for Contemporary photography remained the same from 2012 to 2013 (ArtTactic Photography Market Report January 2014). However, it is the Contemporary market that continues to drive sales at the top end. Prices for iconic photographers (i.e. Man Ray and Alfred Stieglitz) can get into the hundreds of thousands of dollars while a large percentage of sales are affordable, under $10,000.
The photography market is a tricky one. Collecting is often motivated by rarity and personal aesthetics, which makes paying attention to a photograph’s catalogue description key. This may seem basic, but interpreting how a photograph’s print date and the print type relate to an artist’s market is essential. In a typical description of a photographic lot at auction there is the artist’s name followed by the italicized title and a date (in red in the example). This represents the Negative Date – the date when the photographer took the image.
The actual date when the photography was printed is usually found either next to or as a part of the type of print (starred in gold above). For the Bernice Abbott photograph above “Vintage” is the only indication of when the photograph was printed. Some photographs, like the Cindy Sherman photograph on the right, are accompanied by the exact printing date (also in red). Print date informs a collector about how the specific photograph fits into the timeline of an artist’s body of work. The context of a photograph produced significantly later than the negative date is different than one printed close to when the photograph was originally taken and is a variable to be taken into account when purchasing.
Here is a guide to non-specific print date references:
- Vintage Print: printed within five years of the negative.
- Early Print: printed within ten years of the negative.
- Later Print: printed at least ten years after the negative.
- Modern Print- printed many years after the negative.
- Posthumous Print: printed after the death of the artist.
- Contemporary Print: currently being printed.
How much the date of printing matters in the valuation of a photograph depends on the artist. Bill Brandt’s (British, 1904-1983) later prints are darker and are valued differently than his early prints. Some descriptions will specify the person who printed them. If someone other than the artist printed the photograph it can have a strong impact on value; positive or negative, depending on their relationship with the artist. Photographs by Ed Weston (American, 1886-1958) printed by his sons are considered valuable because they were trained by him and followed his methods, but if the photographs were printed by another party this would likely not be the case. The type of photograph (the process used to create the print) is a variable that should not be overlooked.
The most common types of photographs you might see at auction are:
- Gelatin Silver: a black and white print made from 1870s to the 20th
- Chromogenic prints: (also referred to as C-prints) color prints made since 1940.
- Dye Transfer: color prints made since 1928.
- Digital prints: (also called Digital Inkjet prints) a printing process developed recently.
In looking at the type of print it is helpful to know an artist’s typical practice. While rarity is often a positive attribute, this is not true in all instances. Ansel Adams is well known for his gelatin silver photographs in black and white and though his color photographs are rarer they are not as well received at auction. Aesthetic considerations aside, successful purchasing decisions are often based on understanding what specifically to pay attention to for an individual artist.
This blog referenced information from:
Ansel Adams, Glossary of Photographic Terms, http://www.anseladams.com/ansel-adams-photography/original-photographs-by-ansel-adams/glossary-of-photographic-terms/
ArtTactic, The Market for Photography, http://www.arttactic.com/art-markets-home-pages/photography-art-market.html
Definitions of Print Processes, http://www.photoeye.com/Gallery/Definitions.cfm
Catalogue Examples from Heritage’s October 16, 2014 Photographs Auction
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.