Researching Your Art
Whether you're researching a family heirloom or a yard sale find, your investigating can be rewarding.
Start with what you already know and document it. Do you know the title, the subject, the medium used, the technique used? Are there different textures, a date listed, or any numbers or names shown? Write a complete description of the work. Next, take a photograph of the work from all sides with a measuring stick to give a sense of scale.
If provenance was not provided when you acquired the art, start with yourself and how you acquired the piece. Keep any documents, letters, and photographs that would help to support authenticity and date range.
When you have documented every fact you know about the work, you can then search for library materials and websites that provide additional information on the medium, style, period, nationality, or individual artist.
You might start with the Facts on File Encyclopedia of Art at the Library Center, which includes information on the history and development of art. The Smithsonian American Art Museum also has an art research guide that can be downloaded.
Establishing a fixed value to a work is difficult. There are many factors that are considered; condition, personal interests of both the seller and buyer and trends in the market. Price guides can help determine current sale and auction prices.
If you need the value of art for insurance, you and your insurance agent may be able to agree on an insured value based on the price you paid for the item. If you have no record of purchase or received the item as a gift, your agent may refer you to someone they consider reliable or you may need to contact a professional appraiser.
Online Pricing Resources
iCollector - A free database of 1.1 million sales of fine arts at auction. It gives you access to online auctions, auction catalogs, dealers, and gallery directories.
AskArt - Find buyer information on artists worldwide
ArtPrice - Art market information
Invaluable - Find and price art
Getting an Appraisal
You could also consider having your work appraised to determine the value. Although the following organizations don't provide appraisals, they publish a directory of their members and can get you in contact with the right professional.
American Society of Appraisers (ASA)
Appraisers Association of America (AAA)
International Society of Appraisers (ISA)
Some auction houses host free "open house" days where visitors can bring in their artwork and have auction-house staff members share their expertise. Other houses allow owners to mail their information with a photograph, and their experts will respond.
200 East Randolph Street, Suite 5100
Chicago IL 60601
(offices also in San Francisco)
875 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 3810
Chicago IL 60611
(offices also in San Francisco and Los Angeles)
William Doyle Galleries
175 East 87th Street
New York NY 10128
Freeman/Fine Arts of Philadelphia, Inc.
1808 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19103
Phillips de Pury & Company
450 Park Avenue
New York NY 10022
63 Park Plaza
Boston MA 02116
Sloans & Kenyon Auctioneers
7034 Wisconsin Avenue
Chevy Chase MD 20815
1334 York Avenue
New York NY 10021
Weschler's Autioneers & Appraisers, LLC
40 West Gude Drive, Suite 100
Rockville, MD 20850
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