The Complicated Ins and Outs of Selling Good Artwork

Whether you inherited a signed American or European oil painting from Uncle John or you have collected good art for 40 years, when it comes time to sell one (or more than one) pieces you have many options and things to think about to make things go well.

Great Canyon of the Sierras – Yosemite, 1871
Thomas Hill
British, 1829-1908
Oil on canvas. 1872

Find Out About Your Original Artwork

Whether you have one painting or twenty you need to proceed slowly. The first thing you need to know accurately is what you have in your possession. Even if the artwork came with appraisals or other notes from dealers or auctions houses or others, it is best to have it evaluated again. Get the current market opinion and valuation by showing it to “fresh eyes.” Be sure to find an appraiser or art expert who is established as an expert for your artist. You can find these people using Google usually or asking museums. The expert can be a dealer, auction house or private appraiser. Be certain that they have a solid reputation and credentials for a number of years in doing this kind of work. Depending on your budget, some places (auction houses in particular) might be a better bet if you tell them you are considering selling through them. They will give you an “auction estimate” after seeing the piece (s) in person. They will need very clear digital photographs and other details such as size, history and condition.

Investigate The Four Ways To Sell Your Fine Art

Once you have an idea as to “market value” price range for your painting you need to decide how to sell it. If it is a major American or European painting (no matter how old it is) you have basically four choices. Sell at auction (downside is no guaranteed sales price or even a guaranteed sale, and you pay a commission). Sell through a private expert “broker” or “agent” (few around, and each have their own ways of selling, but it can be a wise way to sell and it can cost you less and get you as much or even more money, depending on what you have to sell). Sell to a dealer (downside is they have to make a profit, so they usually will pay a “wholesale price” unless what you have is very “important” and valuable). Donate to an institution (upside is obvious if you need tax deductions. The downside is it can take time and involve attorneys and a fair amount of paperwork.

Look at What Will Give You The Best Guaranteed Result

Regardless of who you choose to sell your American or European paintings or other artwork (in particular, sculpture), be sure and take your time. For most people having their item (s) sell and getting the most out at the least cost to them as a seller is most important. Ask for references and especially compare fees and contracts and agreements from one place to another. I would suggest you show any agreement you are offered to your attorney if you have any questions that are not answered to your satisfaction by the dealer, broker, auction house or institution. Many agreements can be long and have considerable “disclaimers” and “fine print.” There is a good deal of fraud and misleading trading and selling of artwork today. There has been for a long time. Educating yourself ahead of time and being sure to not send photos out to anyone until you have decided how you want to sell your artwork is suggested. The more people who see what you have before you pick a person or company to sell it for you, the greater chance you might have of not selling it to its best advantage for the best price.

2018-12-11T13:34:39+00:00

About the Author:

Dennis Tesdell has used his experience and knowledge owning a fine art gallery, working as a professional appraiser and contributing to books and articles on art, antiques, and appraising since 1972. In 1999 he was a chief contributor to the first book published by “FOR DUMMIES” on antique collecting, called Antiquing For Dummies. Dennis has over 46 years as a private fine art broker and Tiffany Studios lamp broker, working with private and corporate clients authenticating, assessing and selling their major American and European paintings and authentic Tiffany Studios lamps to private collectors worldwide. He has had great success in the private, discreet brokering of fine American and European art quickly, and he is one of the very few "no fee to the seller" private art brokers internationally. His contact information is on each page of his web sites.