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Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice Spring 2019 Edited by Todd W. Sigety, ISA CAPP Sponsored by the International Society of Appraisers - Private Client Services With sponsorship and hosting from ISA’s Private Client Services the new Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice will contain content geared for higher level assignments and more advanced appraisals geared toward High Net Worth Individuals, building client bases of museum collections, advanced collectors, estate planning attorneys, private bankers, financial planners and other allied professionals. The Journal is written and complied specifically for personal property appraisers and professionals from related and associated fields and will included original research articles, appraisal principles and methodologies from a variety of perspectives and approaches.

DIGITAL JOURNAL
OF
ADVANCED APPRAISAL
PRACTICE
SPRING 2019
SPONSORED BY
THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF APPRAISERS
PRIVATE CLIENT SERVICES
Edited by Todd W. Sigety, ISA CAPP
ii
DIGITAL JOURNAL OF ADVANCED APPRAISAL PRACTICE
Copyright © 2019 by Todd W. Sigety and named authors
All rights reserved. No part of this digital journal may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or
by any means without written permission of the author.
Disclaimer and Limitations of Liability
The views expressed within the Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice are solely those of
the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the editorial staff or the International
Society of Appraisers. While the editorial staff has used reasonable efforts to include informative
content within the Journal, we make no warranties or representations as to the accuracy of the
content and assume no liability or responsibility for any use, error or omission in the content.
iii
ISA Private Client Services
he ISA Private Client Services program was developed to educate ISA appraisers who
wish to work with high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) and ultra-high-net-worth individ-
uals (UHNWI) and their collections. Members of the program will acquire best practice
methodolgies and how to approach and interact with gatekeepers specializing in high value objects
and collections. While not a certification, after completion of the program, ISA appraisers will use the
ISA Private Client Services affiliation to promote this service in their appraisal practices and to their
HNWI clients and allied professionals.
As the chart shows, the number of
HNWI is growing every year. The ISA
Private Client Services program was de-
signed to specifically train ISA mem-
bers to develop, manage, and market
their services to high net worth individ-
uals and their associates. This includes
attorneys, family offices, wealth mangers, estate planners, financial planners, insurance agents/under-
writers, and private bankers. Additionally, developing contacts and relationships with associated and
allied professionals in the art market including museum registrars, conservators, logistics specialists,
auction houses and galleriest are also part of the ISA Private Client Services training. After meeting
the qualification requirements and taking the two-day seminar, ISA members will be able to promote
themselves as part of the ISA Private Client Services program.
As appraisers expand and transform their practices into areas beyond basic USPAP compliant apprais-
als and move into other sectors of valuation services and art advisory, such as fine and decorative art
consultations, brokerage, security, logistics, and collection management, professional appraisers need
T
iv
to be prepared to work with and interface with the
HNWI client demographic and their art and finan-
cial planning professionals. The ISA Private Client
Services program was developed to prepare and
train ISA appraisers to work with these service pro-
viders in the most complete and professionally trained manner.
The fine and decorative art markets are no longer static. Professional appraisers now must constantly
change with the marketplace while expanding and re-inventing our specialty and professional services.
Re-invention and expansion are not only necessary for a thriving appraisal practice, but it is considered
essential in order to stay viable and to compete in an increasingly competitive and changing market-
place. The ISA Private Client Services advanced educational programs train participating appraisers to
develop relationships with high net worth individuals, while preparing its appraiser members to work
with and promote their services to associated professionals within the legal, financial and allied art
markets.
If you are looking to expand your appraisal practice, this pro-
gram is designed specifically to do that while targeting HNWI
collectors and their associates, many with important objects and
collections which need both appraisal services and connected
advisory services. Don't miss out on this specialized appraisal program and continuing appraisal pro-
grams. If you are an ISA member, don’t hesitate and apply to the Private Client Services, and if not
an ISA member, think about joining or bridging into ISA.
For more information on ISA Private Client Services, CLICK HERE.
v
Foreword
would like to thank the International Society of Appraisers and ISA Private Client Services
for sponsoring and promoting the new Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice. This new
publication is a both a continuation and a variation from the previous Journal of Advanced Ap-
praisal Studies, first published in 2008 and ceased publication in 2016.
The Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies was previ-
ously published in print form. After careful review
with contributing authors, fellow appraisers and allied professionals it was determined that with new
publishing technologies the best way to move forward and expand its reach was to develop a new, all-
digital edition. The new digital journal will be published twice a year with typically 5-8 articles on
advanced appraising.
With sponsorship and hosting from ISA’s Private Client Services the new Digital Journal of Advanced
Appraisal Practice will contain content geared for higher level assignments and more advanced ap-
praisals focusing on High Net Worth Individuals and building client bases of museum collections,
advanced collectors, estate planning attorneys, private bankers, financial planners and other allied
professionals. The Journal is written and complied specifically for personal property appraisers and
professionals from related and associated fields and will include original research articles and ad-
vanced appraisal principles and methodologies from a variety of perspectives and approaches.
I would like to thank Perri Guthrie, President of the ISA Board of Directors for assisting in the new
direction and name of the Journal, and to all contributors for this new and important appraisal edu-
cational project.
Todd W. Sigety, ISA CAPP
I
vi
Table of Contents
An Overview of the Many Ways That An Appraiser Can Assist the Private
Client Services Community - By Sarah Reeder ....................................................... 7
Art Crimes and Misdemeanors: Managing Risk in Estate Administration and In
Appraisals of Stigmatized Art - By Sarah Moore Johnson & Cindy Charleston-
Rosenberg .................................................................................................................. 17
The Dynamics of Valuing Emerging Art and Artists - By David Shapiro ........ 42
Appraising Designer Furniture: The Challenge of Authenticity and False
Identities - By Soodie Beasley.................................................................................. 79
Valuing Beauties: The Bijin In Japanese Prints - By Daphne Lange Rosenzweig
..................................................................................................................................... 90
Appraising Chinese Glass: A Guide to Objects & Connoisseurship - By Susan
Lahey ........................................................................................................................ 127
From the Archives - Introduction to Research for Art Appraisers - By Tom
McNulty ................................................................................................................... 142
An Overview of the Many Ways That An Appraiser Can Assist
the Private Client Services Community
By Sarah Reeder, ISA CAPP
s a member of the International Society of Appraisers’ recently implemented Private
Client Services Program for high-net-worth-individuals, I am excited to have the desig-
nation and specialized training to work with this community in my firm. However, I feel
the very first step needed to help these professional relationships thrive going forward is for appraisers
to proactively enlighten the Private Client Services community about the myriad of ways we can ease
and inform their work to assist their clients. In the 2018 “Appraising in the World of High-Net-Worth
Individuals” workshop featuring speakers from family offices, estate planning firms, and other pro-
fessionals serving this community, it became clear to me that many of the experts in this field are not
yet fully aware of the countless ways appraisers can assist their work. We in the appraisal field now
have an opportunity to inform them about the broad range of our professional roles.
This article is an introductory overview of the many ways appraisers can assist the private client ser-
vices community with an initiation to a discussion that I hope will be continued and expanded on in
the future by my appraisal colleagues and our professional counterparts serving high-net-worth indi-
viduals. Often one only considers calling in an appraiser if something has been damaged or a client
passes away, but appraisers can be critically helpful for high-net-worth-individuals at every life stage.
Rather than a one-time service provider, I feel appraisers are more akin to an auto mechanicexperts
with highly specialized knowledge to be checked in with regularly to maintain and protect one’s col-
lection assets, just like routine scheduled oil changes with a trusted mechanic keeps a car running
smoothly for years.
A
Sarah Reeder
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
8
In the following article I will outline a range of ways appraisers can be of significant assistance to estate
planning experts, accountants, lawyers, insurance firms, family offices, collection managers, and simi-
lar professionals serving high-net-worth individuals. This list will not be exhaustive but is intended to
expand the popular understanding of the breadth of expert resources appraisers can provide and help
spark new future contributions to this ongoing conversation from my colleagues in the field.
One area of focus that applies to our outreach to specialists in all of these industries is the benefit of
an increased emphasis on spreading awareness about the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal
Practice: what it is, what ethical and professional regulations are included in it, and why it is critical
for the protection of their high-net-worth clients. The Private Client Services community should
always work with appraisers who are USPAP-compliant. I spend a great deal of time in my own
appraisal firm talking about the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, or USPAP. On
a regular basis I encounter attorneys and similar high-level professionals who were previously unaware
of the existence of USPAP and delighted to hear my explanation of how it serves to protect their
clients. The elements of USPAP pertaining to avoiding appraiser conflicts of interest and prohibited
conditional fee structures are especially important for the Private Client Services community to be
aware of given the multiple hats appraisers sometimes wear in their professional roles. I consider
greater emphasis on educating what USPAP is and the benefits of working with USPAP-compliant
appraisers (which all members of the International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services Pro-
gram are required to be) as a keystone in the future growth of opportunities for collaboration between
appraisers and high-net-worth individuals.
USPAP is one of the very best assets we have in the appraisal field to illustrate the massive changes
and improvements that have taken place in our industry over the last several decades. I’ve found that
some gatekeepers initially retain an image of the appraisal field as it was known many years ago in its
unregulated state before the introduction of USPAP in 1987. They react very favorably when I bring
them up to date about the sweeping improvements in standards and the high bar of training needed
An Overview of the Many Ways That An Appraiser Can Assist the Private Client Services Community
International Society of Appraisers - Private Client Services
9
to become an appraiser now. It’s incumbent on us now in the appraisal field to continue this educa-
tional outreach and demonstrate to the Private Client Services community how well suited we are to
assist in the protection of their clients’ collections.
Estate Planning Experts, Accountants and Lawyers
Traditionally in the estate field one only considers bringing in an appraiser after a client has passed,
but in reality, appraisers are useful experts for estate professionals to collaborate with long before a
client’s date of death.
Appraisers are critically useful for estate planning purposes as they provide the independent, objective
perspective that can accurately assess that a treasured heirloom’s worth is limited to sentimental value,
while the ignored painting no one likes hanging behind it is actually a rare masterpiece. Having accu-
rate valuation feedback about the art collections and other tangible personal property belonging to a
high-net-worth client can help estate planning specialists better design the structure of estate plans to
reduce tax liability and protect the interests of heirs. Identification of which items are truly valuable
in a financial context rather than a personal context is the best way to accomplish this, and also miti-
gates the chances of future conflict within the client’s family. I’m sure nearly every appraiser has
encountered assignments where the client’s family has argued bitterly over an item with an inaccurately
perceived high value. Getting a clear assessment about which items are monetarily valuable and which
aren’t from a USPAP-compliant appraiser who is objective, independent, and has no vested interest
in the outcome or appraised values is the best way to reduce these conflicts and help protect the estate
holdings that do have high value. For estate professionals specializing in high-net-worth clients, these
items can be exceptionally valuable and may be better held for estate planning purposes in structures
like art LLCs.
It can be useful to work with an appraiser quite early on in the estate planning process to catalog and
provide a comprehensive assessment of the client’s assets if this has not already been completed as
Sarah Reeder
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
part of regular collection management. This serves to document the tangible personal property assets
in the client’s holdings and give the high-net-worth individual the opportunity to review each item in
the collection together with estate planning professionals to determine the most appropriate course
of action for each piece in the development of the estate plan. Any potential complications that need
a specialized treatment in the estate plan, such as a $50 million dollar painting, can be identified and
mitigated early on rather than being discovered after the client’s death and triggering a tax burden for
the estate that could have been reduced with informed preventative planning. It also gives the estate
planning professional a clearer picture of the client’s total net worth by quantifying the art and other
tangible personal property, providing the opportunity to more accurately compare net worth across
all asset categories against estate taxation thresholds and make appropriate adjustments to the com-
prehensive estate plan.
The appraiser can also assist as a consultant in the creation of family distribution reports for personal
use within the family. While they do not replace or preclude the legally mandated appraisal reports
for the estate and often occur far too early to be appropriate for setting basis, the execution of an
internal family distribution report with limited intended users can greatly smooth the process of set-
tling the subsequent dispersal of tangible personal property among heirs. Ideally, this sort of report
helps support the process of the high-net-worth client working with her or his estate professional to
identify which items in the collection she or he wishes to go to certain heirs, which can dramatically
reduce headaches and expensive complications for estate professionals caused by the family discord
and legal disputes that so often plague the settlement of estates where the deceased’s wishes have not
been clearly identified about who should get what. It also provides the deceased with the satisfaction
of being involved in this decision-making process during life and helps document important prove-
nance information about the collection known by the owner, such as which gallery a certain work was
purchased at, which can increase future value.
An Overview of the Many Ways That An Appraiser Can Assist the Private Client Services Community
International Society of Appraisers - Private Client Services
The most obvious function for appraisers in estate settings is of course preparing an estate appraisal
report at fair market value as of the estate’s effective date. In order to classify as a “qualified appraiser”
as defined by the Internal Revenue Service, in addition to the stringent educational and experience
requirements, the appraiser who prepares an appraisal report with the IRS as an intended user cannot
be what they consider an “excluded individual.” I am not a legal professional but feel the definition
of what an “excluded individual” is as outlined in the Internal Revenue Service’s Publication 561
should be carefully reviewed by all involved in the preparation of an appraisal report with the Internal
Revenue Service as an intended user. While these excluded individual requirements were originally
written with language specific for the context of charitable contribution appraisal reports, the concepts
of disqualifying previous involvement have extended in application to estate intended uses:
“The following persons cannot be qualified appraisers with respect to particular property.
1. The donor of the property, or the taxpayer who claims the deduction.
2. The donee of the property.
3. A party to the transaction in which the donor acquired the property being appraised, unless the
property is donated within 2 months of the date of acquisition and its appraised value is not more
than its acquisition price. This applies to the person who sold, exchanged, or gave the property to the
donor, or any person who acted as an agent for the transferor or donor in the transaction.
4. Any person employed by any of the above persons. For example, if the donor acquired a painting
from an art dealer, neither the dealer nor persons employed by the dealer can be qualified appraisers
for that painting.
Sarah Reeder
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
5. Any person related under section 267(b) of the Internal Revenue Code to any of the above persons
or married to a person related under section 267(b) to any of the above persons.
6. An appraiser who appraises regularly for a person in (1), (2), or (3), and who does not perform a
majority of his or her appraisals made during his or her tax year for other persons.
In addition, a person is not a qualified appraiser for a particular donation if the donor had knowledge
of facts that would cause a reasonable person to expect the appraiser to falsely overstate the value of
the donated property. For example, if the donor and the appraiser make an agreement concerning the
amount at which the property will be valued, and the donor knows that amount is more than the FMV
of the property, the appraiser is not a qualified appraiser for the donation.” (Source: Publication 561)
For this reason, and also just as a good general practice, it’s my opinion that it is exceptionally useful
for estate attorneys, accountants, and similar estate planning offices to develop positive working rela-
tionships with a number of different USPAP-compliant appraisers, and maintain a roster of these
appraisers in their professional network so they can call on an entirely different appraiser to perform
the estate appraisal from the appraiser or appraisers who were associated with the earlier collection
cataloging, estate planning, and family distribution document. It is crucial to have a large enough
roster of appraisers to be able to engage an appraiser not previously involved with that particular estate
for the final estate appraisal report, both to meet IRS requirements and also to protect the estate from
any claims of conflicts of interest or favoritism from an appraiser with a long association with the
client. The ISA Private Client Services Program will be a major tool in helping estate professionals
serving high-net-worth clients to source multiple appraisers with the appropriate training and build a
diverse resource network.
An Overview of the Many Ways That An Appraiser Can Assist the Private Client Services Community
International Society of Appraisers - Private Client Services
Insurance Firms
I’ve found a major blind spot among many clients of their awareness of the need to regularly update
insurance appraisal reports to reflect and incorporate market changes. Just in the last several months
of appraisal assignments, I’ve had the opportunity to review previous appraisal reports on file dating
to the 1990s, 1980s, and even one from the early 1970s. Clearly, the appraised values in these reports
are no longer an accurate representation of the current market and clients are massively vulnerable in
the event of loss, particularly those traditionally served by the Private Client Services community who
often have significant collections. This absence of popular awareness of how frequently insurance
appraisal reports should be updated, which is closer to every few years rather than every few decades
also contributes to a systemic issue where many insurance providers are missing the opportunity to
collect premiums that accurately reflect the current value of the insured items, which in many cases
have enjoyed several decades of appreciation. It is an all-too-common situation that doesn’t serve
either the clientswho are underinsured and not sufficiently protectedor the insurance compa-
nieswho are missing out on collecting millions in premiums due to the prevalence of decades-old
appraisals on file. Appraisers can remedy this situation and we are ready to help. This is an area where
future collaborative educational outreach by both insurance firms and appraisers to their shared client
base about appropriate time frames for insurance appraisal updates will be especially beneficial to
improve client collection protection and expand business opportunities for both fields.
Regular updates of insurance appraisals also incorporate new additions to collections which have been
acquired since the last report was issued, which is another important function of appraisal updates.
It’s not uncommon in my insurance assignments to find that several major pieces have been acquired
since the last update and have been sitting unprotected in the client’s residence for years. As anyone
who has ever been involved with a damage claim can attest, it is so much simpler to have all items
documented and protected before any damage or loss occurs rather than having to reconstruct the
item’s appearance and condition from minimal records or photographs. Having an updated insurance
appraisal also supports and facilitates a number of other collection-related activities, such as easing the
Sarah Reeder
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
process of arranging to move a painting between a client’s homes or sending it to a museum to be
included in an exhibition as a loan. Before the work leaves the wall, it is important to have a current
appraised value already in place for the work’s protection. Achieving comprehensive collection pro-
tection with regular appraisal updates reduces stress for the collector and improves the service and
business opportunities of insurance firms.
Collection Management
A linchpin in all the activities described above is collection management, which is a separate service
that many appraisers regularly provide. Collection management is an overarching, integrative practice
that can take a variety of forms depending on each client’s interests and vision. In collection manage-
ment, appraisers in the role of consultants can:
advise on planned future purchases and assess market conditions for the artist being consid-
ered
serve as a liaison with art handlers and similar professionals
inspect, photograph, and document new incoming additions to the collection and arrange for
them to be added to insurance coverage
inventory and catalog all of the items in the client’s collection and maintain a collection data-
base
work with the client to help identify and evaluate areas of desired expansion and future pur-
chases for the collection.
It is akin to having one’s one private museum registrar and curator, serving as the steward of a client’s
collection and maximizing opportunities for the client to enjoy the elements that bring the most joy
(such as contemplating new purchases or having certain paintings included as a loan in an institutional
exhibition so others can share in seeing the works) without having to worry about the day-to-day
maintenance. Appraisers can be every useful in bespoke collection development as well, gaining a
An Overview of the Many Ways That An Appraiser Can Assist the Private Client Services Community
International Society of Appraisers - Private Client Services
deep understanding of the client’s taste and collecting aims. They can also help research and source
new artists tailored to the client, as well as assisting in building positive relationships with these artists
that can enhance the client’s enjoyment of the collecting process.
Due to the restrictions in USPAP about appraiser conflicts of interest, it’s critical that appraisers serv-
ing in collection management roles for a client remain vigilant about activities that would present a
conflict of interest and bring in other qualified appraiser colleagues when appropriate to fulfill those
roles, but collection management is an area of service where appraisers’ skills, connoisseurship, and
market experience is currently sorely underutilized.
Family Offices
Appraisers are an important resource for family offices, which are a centralized team of professionals
managing all financial and practical logistics for a high-net-worth family or small group of families.
Building long-term relationships with a diverse network of appraisers with different specialties and
areas of expertise will ensure that a family office can provide comprehensive appraisal services for the
full extent of the family’s collections. Maintaining a large roster of appraisers in a family office’s
network also protects the interests of the family by making sure that there are enough appraisers with
private client services experience available that a different appraiser can be selected for different ap-
praisal intended uses as the family’s needs arise. For example, the family office can coordinate with
one appraiser for an insurance appraisal report and a second different appraiser for a charitable con-
tribution of a painting to a museum to help shield the client from any future claims, however unjusti-
fied, of appraiser influence or favoritism. Maintaining objectivity and avoiding previous involvement
are critical for both the appraiser and the protection of the client, which is why developing a deep
bench of highly trained appraisers experienced in working with the private client services community
will be extremely beneficial to all. This is one of the areas of continued future growth I’m most excited
to contribute to in the International Society of Appraiser’s Private Client Services Program.
Sarah Reeder
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
About the Author
Sarah Reeder, ISA CAPP, is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers with the
Private Client Services designation and an Accredited Member of the Appraisers Association of Amer-
ica. She is the owner of Artifactual History® Appraisal and the Co-Editor of Worthwhile Magazine™,
an online publication about the art and appraisal world. She can be reached at info@afhappraisal.com.
Art Crimes and Misdemeanors: Managing Risk in Estate
Administration and In Appraisals of Stigmatized Art
By Sarah Moore Johnson, Esq and Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg, ISA CAPP
INTRODUCTION
rt collectors and their estates can experience disastrous outcomes when art is acquired
without proper due diligence and when art is incorrectly valued. At the root of these
problems are various types of stigmatized art that commonly lurk in estate collections,
including forgeries, stolen art, mistakenly attributed or unidentified works, and art that is illegal to own
or trade. Failure to properly identify and value stigmatized works can result in avoidable excess tax
liability, unequal distributions to heirs, overpayment of insurance premiums, family disputes, and in-
creased vulnerability to IRS challenge.
This article provides guidance to appraisers, trust and estate attorneys, and wealth managers on how
to identify stigmatized art that may complicate estate administration. It discusses the associated legal
and monetary risks can be managed through advanced strategies and diligence in the selection of
relevantly qualified experts.
PART ONE TYPES OF STIGMATIZED ART
FORGED ART
Over the past decade the international art market has been deeply challenged by forgery scandals, with
no segment of the art world left immune. The discovery of forgeries brokered at premiere levels of
the gallery and auction markets has resulted in shifting standards and expected practices for collectors
and advisors. Collectors should no longer rely solely on the vetting of their eminent gallery or auction
house to confirm authorship, as the following examples show.
A
Sarah Moore Johnson and Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
Galleries: Knoedler & Company forgery scandal
In 2011, Knoedler & Company one of New York's oldest and most revered art galleries abruptly
shuttered its doors in the wake of an $80 million forgery scandal. Since its opening in 1846, Knoedler
had been a leading supplier of Old Master paintings to barons of the Gilded Age, including Cornelius
Vanderbilt and J.P. Morgan.
In 1994, a previously unknown art dealer, Glafira Rosales, visited Knoedler gallery director Ann Freed-
man. Rosales claimed to represent the reclusive heir of a private collector, who had built a world-class
American abstract expressionist collection by purchasing directly from then-living artists including
Robert Motherwell, Richard Diebenkorn, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. Rosales reportedly rep-
resented to Ms. Freedman that the heir refused to allow the collector's identity to be revealed, and that
provenance (history of ownership), including original sale documentation, could not be supplied.
These works, passed off as originals, were later discovered to have been expertly painted by Chinese
immigrant Pei-Shen Qian in his Brooklyn garage.
Over the next 14 years, Rosales worked in tandem with her boyfriend and his brother to place dozens
of fakes in the collections of Knoedler’s prominent and sophisticated clientele. In promoting the
works, Freedman reportedly represented to buyers that the unidentified collector was known to the
gallery.
1
One victim, Domenico De Sole, a board member of Sotheby’s and former CEO of the Gucci Group,
purchased a fake Mark Rothko from Knoedler for a reported $8.3 million. The De Soles sued
Knoedler under the federal RICO Act as running a racketeering operation and settled after a full trial.
Many other victims settled out of court.
2
1
Cahill, John R., "An Update on the Knoedler Gallery Lawsuits," Sothebys.com News (May 4, 2014).
2
Miller, M.H., “The Big Fake: Behind the Scenes of Knoedler Gallery’s Downfall,Art News (April 25, 2016).
Art Crimes and Misdemeanors: Managing Risk in Estate
Admiration and In Appraisals of Stigmatized Art
International Society of Appraisers - Private Client Services
Allegations raised by plaintiffs include that Freedman failed to exercise diligence in confirming prov-
enance and that early warnings from authenticators had been ignored.
3
John Elderfield, an eminent
art historian, and Gretchen Diebenkorn Grant, the daughter of painter Richard Diebenkorn, both
testified that, as early as the mid-1990s, they’d indicated to Freedman that works represented as
Diebenkorns were dubious. Jack Flam, president of the Dedalus Foundation, dedicated to the legacy
of artist Robert Motherwell, also testified that in 2008 he’d disputed two works attributed to Mother-
well.
Despite a lack of confirmed provenance and early authenticity concerns voiced by recognized author-
ities, Freedman continued to represent works from this collection for another decade. Commentators
also point to the unusually high differential between Knoedler's cost and sale prices as another obvious
cause for concern. These factors suggest, that at the very least, Freedman acted with a reckless lack of
due diligence.
The Knoedler scandal deeply undermined buyers’ trust in the vetting process of prominent galleries
and other eminent sources and highlights the need for buyers of significant works to exercise more
diligence in advance of purchase. The scandal also brought into sharp focus the professional ap-
praiser’s responsibility to confirm authorship with recognized authentication experts before conclud-
ing value.
Auction: Old Master forgery scandal
As the art world was still reeling from the Knoedler scandal, European art collector Giuliano Ruffini
emerged as a common link in an Old Master forgery scandal involving an estimated $250 million in
forged art.
3
Kinsella, Eileen, “Richard Diebenkorn's Daughter Challenges Ann Freedman's Story at Knoedler Forgery Trial, Art-
net News (January 28, 2016).
Sarah Moore Johnson and Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
In 2010, Ruffini sold a work attributed to artist Frans Hals to London-based art dealer Mark Weiss,
and Weiss sold the work through Sotheby’s in 2011 for $10.8 million. When authenticity suspicions
arose after the sale, Sotheby’s employed forensic analysis and discovered the work contained synthetic
pigments not invented until the 20
th
century. Sotheby’s reimbursed the buyer and sued Mark Weiss
for breach of contract.
4
Sotheby’s traced back chains of title for other works originating with Ruffini, identifying a work titled
“St. Jerome” attributed to 16
th
century Italian artist Parmigianino, that had been consigned by a col-
lector who’d also purchased from Ruffini. Through forensic analysis, Sotheby’s also determined this
work to be a fake and refunded the buyer. The painting had been displayed in prominent museums
and endorsed by independent specialists as either by or in the “circle of” Parmigianino.
Ruffini is also connected to “Venus with a Veil,” attributed by experts to Lucas Cranach the Elder
and sold to Hans-Adam II, the Prince of Liechtenstein, for €7 million (approximately $7.95 million).
The image of the ancient Greek goddess was seized by the French authorities in March 2016.
5
Ruffini
is currently being investigated by the French police and says he never claimed any of the works were
authentic.
The Terrus Museum forgery scandal
The Terrus Museum in Elne, France, dedicated more than 20 years to collecting the works of Étienne
Terrus, a local artist best known for his landscapes of the Roussillon region. As the museum was
expanding to house its growing collection, it discovered 82 of its 140 works were counterfeits. Smaller
museums are particularly vulnerable to forgeries because they often lack the budget to hire profes-
sional curators or to conduct proper diligence.
6
4
Boucher, Brian, “Sotheby’s Sues London Dealer Mark Weiss Over Frans Hals Forgery,ArtNet News (February 7, 2017).
5
Watson, Leon, “Vividly-Colourful ‘Renaissance’ Masterpiece Ruled a Fake,” The Telegraph (January 19, 2017).
6
Peltier, Elian and Codrea-Rado, Anna, “French Museum Discovers More Than Half Its Collection Is Fake,” The New
York Times (April 30, 2018).
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The Palazzo Ducale museum scandal: Modigliani fakes
In the summer of 2017, a major Amedeo Modigliani exhibition at the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa, Italy,
was shut down amid authenticity concerns. Of the exhibition’s 30 works, 20 were later confirmed to
be forgeries.
Modigliani is one of the most forged artists in the world. Modigliani scholar Marc Restellini reports
there are at least 1,000 Modigliani fakes in circulation.
7
Modigliani originals are particularly difficult to
confirm as a result of the artist’s penchant for trading art for drinks, an incomplete catalogue raisonné,
and various experts jockeying for positioning as the recognized authority, often issuing contrary opin-
ions.
UNATTRIBUTED AND MISATTRIBUTED ART
Reassignment of a work’s authorship can lead to dramatic changes in value. Lack of diligence in con-
firming authenticity, or in fully exploring authorship for unidentified works, can present greater valu-
ation risks than outright bad intent. Although appraisers are rarely qualified to authenticate, a critical
part of the appraisal process is identifying and consulting with the recognized authentication authori-
ties.
Misattributed: Chinese art in the collection of the Pacific Boychoir Academy
The Washington Post recently covered a story where misattributed art donated to a small but prestigious
music academy undermined the school’s financial solvency. A patron had recently donated Chinese
artworks at an appraised value of $2.8 million.
8
The struggling school viewed the well-intentioned gift
as the seeds of an endowment and long-term security.
7
Esterow, Milton, “The Art Market’s Modigliani Forgery Epidemic,” Vanity Fair (May 2017).
8
Brice-Saddler, Michael, “A school bet its future on paintings worth $2.8 million then learned their real value, The
Washington Post (March 4, 2019).
Sarah Moore Johnson and Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg
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When the school took steps to sell the art, it was informed the paintings were copies of little value.
However, relying on the appraisal, the school had already borrowed against the art for program and
staff development, and now owed significant debt against a relatively worthless asset. Consequently,
the school has had to lay off staff and is struggling to continue its operations. This story highlights a
range of serious financial consequences that can result from a less-than-diligent appraisal, in addition
to the elevated risk of an IRS challenge and embarrassment for the institution and donor.
The continuing controversy surrounding “Salvator Mundi”
In 2005, a painting later identified as Leonardo DaVinci's “Salvator Mundi” sold at a Louisiana estate
auction for approximately $10,000. Over the next 12 years, the painting was the subject of painstaking
restoration and exhaustive provenance research.
In 2017, Christie’s set a record price for an artwork at auction, with “Salvator Mundi” achieving $450
million. The attribution and/or degree of originality of the artwork continue to be the subject of
controversy, although expert consensus seems to support the attribution to DaVinci. Nevertheless,
Oxford University art historian Matthew Landrus has publicly stated his opinion that the work was
mostly executed by Leonardo’s assistant, Bernardino Luini, whose auction record is approximately
$650,000.
9
Landrus is not the only expert to express uncertainty on the painting’s authorship. Univer-
sity of Leipzig art historian Frank Zöllner, Michael Daley of ArtWatch UK, and New York magazine
critic Jerry Saltz have also expressed doubts. Without explanation, the Louvre Abu Dhabi indefinitely
postponed an exhibition of the work that was planned in 2018.
The history of the “Salvator Mundi” illustrates the risk of value loss when authorship of estate art is
not recognized. Here, there were two instances of potential lost value: the original estate auction sale
at far less than the painting was worth (regardless of whether it was painted by DaVinci or one of his
9
Neuendorf, Henri, “Who Really Painted ‘Salvator Mundi’?,” ArtNet News (August 7, 2018).
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assistants), and the high purchase price at Christie’s auction (should DaVinci prove not to be the
original author).
Unattributed: John Constable in the collection of Lady Hambleden
In 2013, Lady Hambleden, the former wife of Viscount Hambleden held an auction sale at Christie’s
London. One of the items auctioned was an oil sketch similar to “Salisbury Cathedral from the Mead-
ows,” one of the best-known works of 19
th
century British landscape artist John Constable. Listed for
auction sale as the work of a Constable “follower,” the oil sketch sold for approximately $5,200. Anne
Lyles, a leading Constable expert at the Tate museum in London later confirmed the work to be by
Constable. The painting subsequently sold at Sotheby’s New York for $5.2 million.
10
Lady Hambleden
decided not to take action against Christie’s.
Unattributed: Caravaggio
Sotheby’s was sued by the consigner of a work listed for sale by the auction house as copy of Cara-
vaggio’s “The Cardsharps”. The work was purchased at auction by prominent British art historian
Denis Mahon for approximately $83,000. After the sale, leading Caravaggio scholar Mina Gregori
confirmed the work is indeed by Caravaggio, and this attribution has been widely accepted.
11
In 2015,
Sotheby’s successfully defended the suit on the basis of the right of the auction house to depend on
its own in-house experts. The work is currently on loan to a London museum, insured at £10 million.
STOLEN ART
Art theft produces estimated losses in the billions of dollars annually.
12
The Federal Bureau of Inves-
tigation (FBI) has an Art Crime Team dedicated to the recovery of stolen works and bringing criminals
10
Manly, Lorne, “$5,200 or $5.2 Million? It’s All in How It’s Framed,” The New York Times (March 7, 2015).
11
Id.
12
“What We Investigate,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, March 20, 2019, www.fbi.gov/investigate/violent-crime/art-
theft#Art-Crime%20Team.
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to justice. The Art Crime Team has recovered more than 14,850 items since its inception, valued at
over $165 million. According to the FBI, only about 5 percent of stolen art is recovered.
Despite the high-profile art theft that is the subject of movies and breaking news, art theft commonly
occurs on a less grand scale, where buyers may not consider purchase prices high enough to warrant
due diligence and provenance is not as critical a consideration.
To help determine if a questionable work of art is stolen, the following resources may be consulted:
Art Loss Register is the world’s largest database of stolen art. It is maintained by a private
company and is used as a resource by insurance companies and law enforcement.
National Stolen Art File (NSAF) is a database of stolen art and cultural property maintained
by the FBI. Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad may submit stolen works for
entry in the database.
Interpol is the world’s largest international police organization, with 192 member countries. It
also maintains a database of stolen works that is accessible to law enforcement agencies and
other authorized users across the world.
Nazi-confiscated art
The restitution of Nazi-looted art during World War II remains an ongoing, worldwide problem.
While the publicly-stated aim is to return works to the heirs of the rightful owner, the reality is far
more complicated and litigious.
The Nazi government had a practice of searching Jewish homes to purchase valuable works at dis-
tressed prices. The owners knew that they would face dire consequences if they did not agree to the
sale, and so the looting was given an air of legitimacy through forced “legal” transactions.
13
13
Kaplan, Isaac, “Three Cases That Explain Why Restituting Nazi-Looted Art Is So Difficult,Artsy.net (July 5, 2017).
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The US has emerged as the forum of preference for heirs of Nazi-looted art to bring suit to recover
works. Under Anglo-American law, a thief cannot pass good title, no matter how many times a work
is subsequently sold to good faith purchasers. U.S. courts have relied on this well-settled principle to
order the return of Nazi-looted art to the heirs of the rightful owners.
Although the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) prevents U.S. courts from exercising jurisdic-
tion over foreign sovereign governments, there is an exception if the taking of property by a govern-
ment is in violation of international law, such as genocide.
The museum community argued that this exception had a chilling effect on loans of international
collections to U.S. museums, as various U.S. district attorneys and attorneys general have used the
exception to FSIA to seize works of art transported to the U.S. through intra-museum loans.
14
On December 16, 2016, a new amendment to FSIA was signed into law, meant to protect works of
art sent to the U.S. for temporary exhibit. The amendment contains an exception for artworks taken
by the government of Germany or any government in Europe occupied by Germany from 1933 to
1945.
15
After World War II, each country was entrusted to return the stolen art to its citizens, but many of
these governments were still anti-Semitic. France received 61,000 stolen artworks and quickly returned
some 45,000 of these to the rightful owners, but thousands more were sold to replenish post-war
coffers. For decades, the Louvre and other museums throughout France have willingly displayed the
remaining 2,000 or so unreturned works.
16
Experts disagree on whether the country is doing enough
to reunite the works with their owners.
14
Id.
15
FSIA §1605(h)(2).
16
McAuley, James, “The Louvre Is Showing Nazi-Looted Art in a Bid to Find Its Owners,The Washington Post (February 2, 2018).
Sarah Moore Johnson and Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg
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At a December 3, 1998, conference in Washington, D.C., 44 nations agreed on the “Washington
Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art” (sometimes referred to as the “Washington Declaration”) and
established protocols for the identification and return of stolen art.
Nevertheless, some foreign governments continue to fight to retain works known to be stolen by
Germany on theories such as adverse possession and statutes of limitation.
17
Gallery conversion of consigned art
Whether by accident or fraud, conversion occurs when an art dealer sells art consigned to it by an
artist or collector for less than or without an agreed price, or when galleries fail to pay the consignor
following a sale. “Conversion” is treating someone else’s property as one’s own and is a form of theft.
In 2011, Pennsylvania art collector George Ball consigned eleven modernist works by artists such as
Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso to his long-trusted Madison Avenue art dealer, Scott
Cook. The value of the works was estimated to be in excess of $5 million. Cook told Ball the works
would be included in Christie’s London auction that summer. Ball trusted Cook and never asked to
see the Christie’s catalog or look for his consignments on the Christie’s website. Later that summer,
Cook sold the paintings without Ball’s knowledge and fled the country.
18
Ball later received an $18
million judgment against Cook for breach of contract, conversion, and breach of fiduciary duty,
19
and
Cook was criminally prosecuted at the federal level.
20
Typically, when conversion occurs, a claim is filed with the property insurer, and the insurance com-
pany litigates with the dealer or gallery.
17
See Kaplan, supra at note 13 (explaining that Spain successfully argued against the U.S. to keep a Camille Pissaro painting known to
have been stolen by Germany by applying its adverse possession laws).
18
Grant, Daniel, “‘Conversion’ Presents Thorny Issues for Art Owners,Art News (September 7, 2011).
19
Ball v. Cook, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147380.
20
FBI Press Release, “Manhattan-Based Art Dealer Charged in Manhattan Federal Court with $4 Million Fraud” (Jan. 26, 2012).
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WORKS DISCLAIMED BY ARTISTS UNDER THE VISUAL ARTISTS RIGHTS ACT
Works created after 1990 have specific protections under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), which
allows living artists to disclaim works deemed to have been so altered or modified by damage that the
original work, even if properly conserved, would no longer retain original integrity or meet their orig-
inal intent.
A few high-profile actions have been brought by or against living artists evoking VARA protections
to disclaim authorship. Cady Noland disclaimed authorship for “Cowboys Milking,a slightly dam-
aged screen print on aluminum, persuading Sotheby's to withdraw the work from a 2011 sale, trigger-
ing a $26 million claim from the consigner.
21
Sotheby’s successfully defended the suit based on their
contractual right to withdraw works with authenticity concerns. Works disclaimed under VARA are
sometimes referred to as “zombie art.” It is prudent to consult with living artists in advance of con-
servation efforts.
VARA creates a set of enforceable “moral rightsfor artists akin to copyright law. The Act recognizes
two causes of action for visual artists: attribution and integrity.
22
Attribution allows an artist to both
claim authorship of a work and to disclaim a work when their name is inappropriately applied to it.
Integrity allows the artist to disclaim authorship and to prevent identification of their name with a
work that has been subsequently distorted, mutilated, or modified in a way that is prejudicial to the
artist’s honor or reputation.
The protections provided by VARA cover only limited, fine art categories of "works of visual art":
paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and still photographs produced for exhibition. Within this
21
Swick, Tracy, (2013, June 7). "Sotheby's and Jancou Battle in Appeals Court over Cady Noland Artwork," Art in America (June
7, 2013).
22
Esworthy, Cynthia, “A Guide to the Visual Artists Rights Act,” Harvard Law School
(www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/martin/art_law/esworthy.htm).
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group, only single copies or signed and numbered limited editions of 200 or less are protected.
23
VARA
grants these moral rights to the artist, but only for the duration of the artist’s life.
The legal remedies available under VARA are the same as for copyright infringement. Damages can
range from $200 for innocent infringements to $100,000 for willful infringements.
COLLATERALIZED ART
The major private banks and private client divisions of large banks have been promoting art lending
as a business line; U.S. Trust, J.P. Morgan, Northern Trust, and others have art-lending teams.
If an estate contains art that has been pledged as collateral for a loan, the executor will either need to
have the lender file a claim against the estate and sell the work or use other estate assets to pay the
debt. The standard provision in a will or revocable trust stating that assets pass subject to secured debt
will also need to be examined.
ILLEGAL TO TRADE ART
Illegal art is art that cannot legally be sold, either because it contains materials that may have once
been legal but are now illegal to sell, or because the content or origin of the work renders it illegal to
trade. Examples include works incorporating ivory or other endangered species, objects subject to
cultural appropriation protections, and/or copyright and intellectual property infringement claims.
Estate art that is illegal to trade can complicate both the appraisal and estate administration processes.
In the widely-reported IRS audit of the Estate of Ileana Sonnabend, the valuation risks posed by illegal
art were seen first-hand. Sonnabend was a prominent dealer of modern American art who died in
2007 at the age of 92. Her estate tax return assigned a value of $0 to a mixed media work titled “Can-
yon” by Robert Rauschenberg, as it included an illegal stuffed bald eagle.
23
Id.
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Under the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is
a crime to buy, sell, barter, or possess a bald eagle in the United States, alive or dead. Thus, the Rausch-
enberg work could no longer be sold.
The IRS insisted the masterwork was worth $65 million and assessed additional estate taxes of $29.2
million and penalties of $11.7 million. The taxes and penalties were waived in a settlement with the
IRS when the Sonnabend children donated the work to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New
York City for a $0 donation credit.
24
PART TWO RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH STIGMATIZED ART
VALUATION RISK
As seen in the stories above, forged and misattributed art can create unexpected estate tax liability,
can cause unnecessary overpayment of estate or gift taxes, and can deprive charitable organizations of
relied-upon funds.
The taxpayer in Doherty v. Commissioner
25
donated a painting by Charles M. Russell to the C.M. Russell
Museum. The taxpayer’s claimed value was $350,000 and the Service’s expert claimed the painting was
a forgery with a value of $100. The case pitted the two foremost authorities on Russell against one
another. The U.S. Tax Court agreed that the dispute over the painting’s authenticity reduced the value,
as did the poor quality of the painting and materials, settling on a value of $30,000. As a result of the
reduction in value, the taxpayer’s charitable contribution was reduced, and the taxpayer had to pay
additional income tax and interest.
LOSS OF POSSESSION AND TITLE RISKS
Stolen art presents an ethical quandary, as there are often two innocent parties and a third guilty party.
Assuming the criminal no longer has possession of the stolen work, the innocents are the original
24
Cohen, Patricia, “MoMA Gains Treasure that Met Also Coveted,The New York Times (November 28, 2012).
25
Doherty v. Comm’r, TC Memo 1992-98.
Sarah Moore Johnson and Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
owner who was the victim of the theft, and the good faith purchaser who was the victim of fraud. The
rightful owner of the stolen work can vary depending on whether the case is heard in a common law
or a civil law country.
Stolen art implicates the jurisdictions of the thief, purchaser, seller, and the location of the work of art
itself, and these jurisdictions often cross international borders and apply different laws. The result is
that participants in the art market are understandably unsure of their legal rights and responsibilities.
Nemo dat
versus market overt
In the U.S. and the UK, the legal principle of nemo dat quod non habet applies, which means that an
owner can never transfer more legal rights than what he actually has. If an object has been stolen at
any point in its chain of title, it remains a stolen object.
The expiration of a statute of limitations only means that the original owner's ability to bring suit for
the object's return is barred. It does not vest title to the stolen object in the current possessor, although
if the statute of limitations deprives the original owner of an actionable claim, the practical result may
be to vest title in the good faith purchaser. Nevertheless, in some circumstances the fact that the
artwork was stolen may mean that if it is sold or transferred to another person, the statute of limita-
tions begins to run anew against that subsequent transferee.
26
Some countries still apply the theory of “market overt” as an exception to the nemo dat rule. The market
overt exception originates from the Middle Ages when markets were held in walled cities, and puts
the burden on the victim of the theft to search the vendors’ stalls to recover the stolen property. The
rule in market overt jurisdictions is that if a buyer makes a purchase in good faith from a vendor who
has displayed the goods openly for sale, the good faith buyer is protected.
27
Jurisdictions that apply
some form of the market overt rule include Brazil, Spain, France, Italy, China, and Japan.
28
26
Ray, Kevin, “(In)security — Secured Transactions in Art and Cultural Property,” 13 DePaul Bus. and Com. L.J. 515, 519 (2015).
27
Lian Yap, Ji, “Appraising the Market Overt Exception,” 3 J. Int’l Com. Law & Tech. 254, 256 (2008).
28
Schwartz, Alan and Scott, Robert E., “Rethinking the Laws of Good Faith Purchase,Yale Law School Faculty Scholarship Series, Paper
4166 (2011) and 111 Colum. L. Rev. 1332, 1335 (2011).
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Statutes of limitation and replevin
In the U.S., an owner who sues in a timely manner almost always recovers stolen goods. The action
in replevin must be brought within the state’s statute of limitations period. A replevin action is an
action to recover personal property that was wrongfully taken or detained and can also include dam-
ages for resulting loss.
29
The statutes of limitations periods for such actions vary across the states,
which generally fall into three categories:
30
Demand and refusal rule: The statute of limitations for a suit in replevin begins to run only
when the owner finds her goods and demands their return, and the buyer refuses her, which
provides the greatest protection to the original owner.
Time of theft or purchase: At the other extreme of protecting the good faith purchaser are
states where the statute of limitations begins to run at the time of the theft, or at the time of
the fraudulent purchase by the merchant-seller, so long as the buyer can establish an open,
notorious, and continuous adverse possession.
Discovery rule: A number of states have adopted a middle-ground position where the statute
of limitations begins to run at the time the original owner discovers or should have discovered
the location of her stolen goods.
Uniform Commercial Code
While replevin actions are usually brought against the thief, good faith buyers forced to return a stolen
work to the original owner often bring breach of contract actions against the seller, which may be
governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). UCC Section 2-725 states any action for breach
of contract for sale must be commenced within four years after the cause of action has accrued.
A cause of action under the UCC accrues when the breach occurs, “regardless of the aggrieved party’s
lack of knowledge of the breach.”
31
29
See, e.g., D.C. Code § 16-3701.
30
Schwartz and Scott, supra note 22, at 1336-1337.
31
U.C.C. § 2-725(2).
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PART THREE MITIGATING THE RISKS OF STIGMATIZED ART
VETTING APPRAISER QUALIFICATIONS
In the Estate of Kollsman v. Commissioner
32
, the U.S. Tax Court rejected a premiere auction house appraisal
for bias and absence of objective support. The opinion in Kollsman illustrates that preeminence in the
auction business, or in another art-related profession, is not adequate assurance of appraisal expertise
or even competency. In rejecting the appraisal offered by the estate in Kollsman as “unreliable and
unpersuasive,” the court found profound deficiencies in the competency as well as the independence
of the auction house appraiser.
In the wake of Kollsman, it is clear that preeminence in the art industry does not by itself ensure ap-
praisal expertise. The involvement of the auction house or dealer in the sale and purchase of the
subject artwork can undermine the Service’s (or court’s) confidence in the appraisal. In fact, in certain
cases, IRS Treasury Regulations prohibit the appraiser from also being the broker of the donated
work.
When a donor claims a charitable deduction in excess of $5,000, Treasury Regulations require a qual-
ified appraisal, made not more than 60 days before the date of contribution, to be attached to the
income tax return.
33
A “qualified appraisal” is one prepared by a “qualified appraiser.” The Treasury
Regulations explicitly state that to be “qualified,” the appraiser must be “completely independent of
the donor.”
34
The authors interpret this to mean that the dealer who sold the donor the work of art
should not be the appraiser, nor should an employee of the dealer appraise the donated item.
While the same “qualified appraiser” rule does not apply to estate and gift tax returns, the appraiser
for estate and gift tax purposes must still “be reputable and of recognized competency to appraise the
32
Kollsman v. Comm’r, TC Memo 2017-40.
32
Ray, Kevin, “(In)security — Secured Transactions in Art and Cultural Property,” 13 DePaul Bus. and Com. L.J. 515, 519 (2015).
33
Treas. Reg. 1.170A-13(c).
34
Treas. Reg. 1.170A-13(c)(5)(i).
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particular class of property involved.”
35
The estate’s attorney should engage appraisers who meet rec-
ognized professional standards for qualification and competency in order to best protect the interests
of the estate.
The Appraisal Foundation’s 2018
Personal Property Appraiser Qualification Criteria
The appraisal of art is a recognized professional discipline, distinct from other types of art market
expertise, with clearly defined credentialing standards. In the United States, The Appraisal Foundation
(TAF) is the foremost authority on the valuation profession.
Under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA), Congress au-
thorized TAF as the source of appraisal practice standards and qualifications. TAF’s Appraiser Qual-
ifications Board is responsible for developing appraiser qualification standards, and TAF’s Appraisal
Standards Board issues and updates “The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice
(USPAP).” These standards and practices help ensure a trustworthy level of professional competency.
Effective as of January 1, 2018, TAF issued an updated and more stringent “Personal Property Ap-
praiser Qualification Criteria.” If an appraiser is credentialed by one of the TAF sponsoring profes-
sional personal property organizations, the appraiser will meet the stringent criteria set forth by TAF.
Those organizations are:
The International Society of Appraisers;
The Appraisers Association of America; and
The American Society of Appraisers.
Each of these organizations maintains public online registries where an expert’s specialization, level
of credentialing, and current USPAP compliance may be confirmed.
35
Treas. Reg. 20.2031-6(b).
Sarah Moore Johnson and Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
To become accredited by a TAF sponsoring organization, the appraiser must go through a rigorous
admissions, training, and testing process. They are required to comply with IRS guidelines, adhere to
a code of ethics, and are subject to oversight and continuing education requirements.
Appraisal Reports
Every appraisal submitted to assist in determining tax liability has the potential to become the subject
of litigation. Appraisals over $50,000 are subject to review by the IRS Art Appraisal Services.
36
The appraisal report should be supported by comparable sales data, relevant expert opinions, and a
well-reasoned objective justification for value conclusions. All appraisal reports should disclose the
approach to valuation and methodology employed, intended use, definition of value, markets ex-
plored, any conditions limiting the results, extraordinary assumptions, and scope of work.
IRS Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property, outlines a preferred identification format
for art valued over $50,000. The appraisal should include professional quality photographs, and con-
tain a complete physical description of the object, including size, materials or medium, subject matter,
name, nationality and life dates of the artist, signatures or other identifying inscriptions or markings,
date of creation, provenance, condition, literature references, and exhibition history. The IRS also
expects the appraiser to exercise due diligence in confirming authenticity.
The appraisal report should also address how the appraiser meets the IRS appraiser qualification cri-
teria, and the appraiser should acknowledge the civil liabilities associated with a grossly inaccurate
valuation. Finally, the appraisal report should include a signed and dated certificate of compliance with
USPAP. This certification must disclose conflicts or bias to the subject property or parties and confirm
that the assignment was not predicated on a predetermined result.
36
The IRS Art Appraisal Services is distinct from the IRS Art Advisory Panel. The members of the Art Advisory Panel are re-
nowned art experts, scholars, and gallerists who serve without compensation. The IRS Art Appraisal Services is part of the Office
of Appeals, staffed by TAF-qualified appraisers.
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USPAP prohibits appraisals that are subject to a contingency fee. An appraiser must not accept an
assignment, or have a compensation arrangement for an assignment, that is contingent on a predeter-
mined value result, based on a percentage of value, or attainment of any advantage (e.g., the appraiser
will broker or sell the subject property).
BEST PRACTICES AND DUE DILIGENCE IN MANAGING A COLLECTION
Advisors are often surprised to discover the lack of due diligence commonly exercised by passionate
collectors both in the acquisition process and in retaining critical records and documents. Following
are steps an advisor can recommend to art collector clients and the executors administering the estates
of deceased art collectors.
At the point of purchase
Buyers of art should exercise caution before purchasing significant works of art, even when purchasing
through a dealer who represents and warrants that the art is authentic, is free and clear of all liens, and
will remain so in the future. Buyers should take the following precautions:
Hire an independent qualified appraiser to assist in the authentication process and to confirm
value and provenance.
Obtain strong representations and written warranties from the dealer or seller with regard to
clear title and authenticity.
Check with the Art Loss Register, FBI, and Interpol to ensure the work was not stolen.
Search the U.C.C. database to ensure the work does not secure the debt of a former owner.
Consider if the purchase of art title insurance is warranted.
Keep a detailed inventory
Collectors should keep a detailed inventory that includes a complete physical description of the object
consistent with the IRS appraisal reporting standard discussed previously; the location of the object;
detailed records of each purchase, including the name of the seller, the date and place of the purchase;
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and the consideration paid. If the collection is appraised for insurance purposes, the appraised values
should also be noted in the inventory.
If the work has been exhibited, loaned, leased, sold, pledged, gifted, or otherwise transferred, the
inventory should be updated to reflect this, together with information on when, where, and to or with
whom the work has been transferred or placed.
If the collector has scholarly publications or reference materials documenting or publicizing the work,
such as catalogs in which the work was offered for sale, these should be kept with the inventory.
If the work is missing due to loss or theft, the inventory should document the known circumstances
of the loss or theft.
If a work was produced in a limited edition of multiple copies, the inventory should state how many
copies were produced and whether the plate or cast was destroyed.
Protecting the art collection
The first steps for administering an estate with an art collection are the same as with the other assets
of the estate: secure and inventory the assets and assess their value.
To prevent lost and stolen art, immediately ensure art is securely stored. The court in In re Warhol Est.,
629 N.Y.S.2d 621, 627 (N.Y. Surr. 1995) commended the executor for securing Warhol’s home on
the day of his death and not losing a single object to theft or misplacement, noting that the home
contained over $100 million of valuable objects and people were seeking entry to claim ownership of
objects from the day of Warhol’s death forward.
If the decedent kept an inventory of works, locate it and ensure it is current. If an inventory does not
exist, engage a qualified art advisor or appraiser to catalog the collection.
Art Crimes and Misdemeanors: Managing Risk in Estate
Admiration and In Appraisals of Stigmatized Art
International Society of Appraisers - Private Client Services
The executor should make sure all works are insured and obtain a rider to any existing insurance policy
covering the interests of the estate and the beneficiaries.
Enforce rights before statutes of limitation expire
If works of art are on loan to a museum or have been consigned to a gallery, the executor should
notify the current possessor of the estate’s intent to preserve its interest in the works and, if appropri-
ate, demand return of the works.
Ascertain proper ownership of artwork
The executor should ascertain whether anyone besides the decedent owned an interest in the works;
whether the works are owned by an LLC, partnership, or other entity; and whether the decedent gave
fractional interests in the works to children, friends, or museums.
Examine chain of title and investigate weaknesses
If the decedent collector’s inventory reveals weaknesses in the chain of title of works, the executor
should investigate, particularly if the work was purchased in the last four years. If more than four years
have passed from the date the decedent bought stolen art that is later reclaimed by the owner, the
estate’s claim against the dealer from whom the art was purchased may be time-barred under the UCC.
Stale loan statutes
If the decedent lives in, or the art is located in, a state that has a “stale loan” statute, under some
circumstances title in the loaned object may pass to the borrower as a deemed gift.
New York enacted an abandoned loan statute in 2008 that allows nonprofit museums located in the
state to acquire title to abandoned works of art and, if they choose, to deaccession (or sell) the works.
“Stale loan” legislation has been passed or is pending in other states (including Alaska, Arkansas,
Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico,
Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin), but only a limited number of states have included provisions
Sarah Moore Johnson and Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
directed at the issue of Nazi-looted art. New York’s statute is unique in that it protects the interest of
Holocaust victims by requiring the museum to notify the Art Loss Register whenever they attempt to
acquire title to abandoned artworks that were created before 1945 and that changed hands in Europe
between 1933 and 1945.
These statutes generally apply to an indefinite loan or a loan with a defined term that has expired.
Art stolen or missing from the estate
If a work of art was stolen prior to the collector’s death or in the course of administration of the estate,
the executor should take steps to locate it. The theft should be reported to the police, the FBI, and
Interpol. If a work is stolen while it is in the estate, the FBI offers the following advice:
37
Protect the scene of the crime and do not let staff or visitors into the area, lest they disturb
evidence.
Determine the last time the objects were seen and what happened in the area, or to the objects,
since that time.
Gather documents, descriptions, and images of the missing objects and provide this to the
police.
Follow up on police actions and investigations to ensure that everything possible is being done.
In addition, the theft should also be reported to stolen art archives such as the NSAF, Interpol, and
Art Loss Register, and assistance should be sought from experts who deal with the type of art involved,
who can put galleries and other dealers on notice through the Art Dealers Association of America.
37
What We Investigate,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, March 20, 2019, www.fbi.gov/investigate/violent-crime/art-
theft#Art-Crime%20Team.
Art Crimes and Misdemeanors: Managing Risk in Estate
Admiration and In Appraisals of Stigmatized Art
International Society of Appraisers - Private Client Services
Efforts to locate the works should be continuous, even though they may seem futile. If the work is
located, the cause of action to recover it could be time-barred in states that apply a discovery rule or
extinguished by laches in states that apply the demand and refusal rule.
The “discovery rule” permits the artist who uses reasonable efforts to report, investigate, and recover
a painting to preserve the rights of title and possession until the identity of the current possessor is
known. Registering the stolen works with the law enforcement databases and private registries should
put a reasonably prudent purchaser of art on constructive notice that someone other than the posses-
sor was the true owner.
38
APPOINTING AN ART EXECUTOR
Often, the artist’s or collector’s spouse or children do not have the requisite knowledge, experience,
or interest to plan for the disposition of the decedent’s art at death. In this case, the client should
consider appointing an art executor who will assemble the works; develop, exhibit, market, or other-
wise promote the works as appropriate; and determine which could be donated or sold for a reason-
able price in the short term, held to generate interest, or discarded if appropriate.
The will or trust should state whether the residuary beneficiaries or the recipients of the works bear
the expense of the art executor’s fee. The trust or will should make clear whether or not the art exec-
utor is simply an advisor or an actual executor. If the art executor is to be an actual executor, it should
be made clear that the art executor has the power to act in his or her sole and absolute discretion with
respect to the property at issue, even if over the objections of the other fiduciaries.
Ideally, the will or trust will provide for compensation to the art executor, which is a deductible ex-
pense of administration. If the person named as art executor would otherwise have been paid a
38
See, e.g., O’Keeffe v. Snyder, 416 A.2d. 862 (N.J. 1980).
Sarah Moore Johnson and Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
commission for selling the collection, naming that person as art executor and paying compensation
instead will save estate taxes, as sales commissions are not deductible unless the artworks were required
to be sold to pay taxes or by the terms of the trust instrument or will.
If an art dealer is to be appointed as executor or trustee, the will or trust should excuse possible
conflicts of interest (but only if the client trusts the conflicted fiduciary).
39
The art executor should not
be the valuation expert. As seen in the Estate of Kollsman, the U.S. Tax Court found that the Sotheby’s
appraiser had a “significant conflict of interest” that called into question his objectivity, as Sotheby’s
was also trying to sell the Old Master works for the estate.
40
CONCLUSION
The art authentication process is often non-absolute and subject to alteration as new information,
scholarship, and technologies become available. The role of interested or less-than-relevantly-creden-
tialed valuation experts, together with careless acquisition by collectors, can elevate estate administra-
tion risks. Advisors and appraisers should be alert to stigmatized art in estate collections to avoid gross
over- or undervaluation and associated legal and financial consequences. A team of the client, the
attorney, and a qualified, independent appraiser is the best protection against the risks of stigmatized
art.
# # #
Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg ISA CAPP, President of the Art Appraisal Firm, brings more than
twenty-five years of art market experience to the appraisal and management of important collections
of American art. A member of the Appraisal Foundation's Board of Trustees, and a past President
and Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), Cindy is active in industry
39
For a cautionary example, see in re Rothko, 43 N.Y.2d 305, 372 N.E.2d 291, 140 N.Y.S.2d 449 (1977) (gallery executive serving as
executor of Rothko’s estate hired himself to sell 798 of Rothko’s works to a corporation owned by the executor).
40
Ray, Kevin, “(In)security – Secured Transactions
Art Crimes and Misdemeanors: Managing Risk in Estate
Admiration and In Appraisals of Stigmatized Art
International Society of Appraisers - Private Client Services
activities to raise awareness of the critical importance of appraiser qualification criteria, and in collab-
oration with allied professionals to advance diligent art collection and succession planning practices.
She is an experienced expert witness, writes and presents widely on advanced appraisal methodology
issues and has won numerous awards for her thought leadership in the personal property appraisal
profession.
Sarah Moore Johnson is a founding partner of Birchstone Moore LLC, a boutique law firm focusing
on estate planning and estate administration. Mrs. Johnson is a leader in the Washington, DC estate
planning community, serving in leadership roles within the DC Bar and as a Board Member and now
President-Elect of the Washington, D.C. Estate Planning Council. Mrs. Johnson has given numerous
presentations at the national level on planning for artists and collectors among other topics and has
twice served on the faculty of the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning. She is a fellow of the
American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and was recognized by the American Bar Association
Taxation Section as a Nolan Fellow in 2008 for her leadership as a young lawyer. Mrs. Johnson is a
magna cum laude graduate of both Wake Forest University and the University of Georgia School of
Law.
The Dynamics of Valuing Emerging Art and Artists
By David Shapiro
Rosemarie Trockel, Who Will Be In In ’99, 1988, knitted wool, 82⅝ by 63 inches (210 by 160 cm),
Edition: 2/3 + A/P
The Dynamics of Valuing Emerging Art and Artists
International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services
he valuation of works of emerging art,
1
while performed in accordance with the same
methodological principles as the valuation of works in other collecting categories, has
dynamics that are particular to it. One notable difference between emerging art and ap-
praising works in many other collecting categories is the limitation of data. Whereas appraisers using
the Sales Comparison Approach to valuation often rely upon the transparent, verifiable data of public
auction records to establish Fair Market Value,
2
this is not an option in assessing values of many
emerging artists who have limited or no auction history, requiring the appraiser to rely upon sales data
recorded in news accounts or given by dealers. The latter may be difficult to obtain, as dealers are
under no legal obligation to disclose information about past sales. Dealers’ asking prices may or may
not correspond to a market of realized sales, generally rendering them inappropriate as comparable
data for purposes other than the assessment of Retail Replacement Value
3
for insurance.
When works by emerging artists debut at auction, the results may be at significant variance from prices
commonly realized in the dealer market, which often remains the main market for the artist’s work.
Collectors seeking to re-sell works by emerging artists often return to the primary-market dealer, who
may be able to secure stronger prices than an auction house can. Dealers normally operating in the
1
Artsy, self-described as “a platform for collecting and discovering art” defines “emerging art” as: “A general category
for contemporary artworks created by young artists whose careers are on the rise. In addition to younger artists and
newer works, the category also includes artists who are relatively under-recognized but for the most part considered on
the path to critical and/or market acceptance.” See: https://www.artsy.net/gene/emerging-art
2
Fair Market Value (FMV) is defined in IRS Publication 561 (dealing with charitable donations), as “the price that prop-
erty would sell for on the open market. It is the price that would be agreed on between a willing buyer and a willing
seller, with neither being required to act, and both having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.” (See:
https://www.irs.gov/publications/p561). While Fair Market Value is used for all tax purposes, it may also be used for a
variety of other appraisal purposes as well. Fair Market Value is generally understood to include transactions costs paid
to the agent of the seller, including buyer’s premium at auction, or a dealer’s commission.
3
Retail Replacement Value (RRV) is defined by the Appraisers Association of America (AAA) as “the highest amount in
terms of US dollars that would be required to replace the property with another of similar age, quality, origin, appear-
ance, provenance, and condition within a reasonable length of time in an appropriate and relevant market.” (See:
https://tinyurl.com/y5a28jbq). See also: Appraising Art: The Definitive Guide to Appraising the Fine and Decorative Arts, 2013,
“Terms and Definitions,” p. 438. Despite this definition, RRV may be expressed in currency other than US dollars, de-
pending on the needs of the assignment.
T
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
primary market may want to handle the artist’s secondary market (even if with relatively low returns)
rather than risk a collector putting work to auction too soon, resulting in poor performance and con-
sequent tarnish to an artist’s emerging reputation. Works by artists with no prior auction history fre-
quently sell for low prices at auction if they sell at all. Prices realized on the auction market for works
of emerging art are often only a small fraction of prices realized in the primary market at retail galleries.
In such a circumstance, particularly when the gallery has no known history of selling the artist’s works
on the secondary market, Retail Replacement Value will likely be many multiples of Fair Market Value.
By contrast, when primary-market supply is scarce and demand is high, works by emerging artists may
sell at auction for prices that are considerably higher than retail gallery prices, inverting the traditional
expectation that retail is a higher market than auction. In such cases, high prices may be realized from
auction debut, sometimes for works that are the same age or scarcely older than those being sold at
galleries in the primary market.
This has been the case with Loie Holowell (American, b. 1983), whose hard-edge paintings abstracting
from female human anatomy and treating themes of sexuality have performed extraordinarily well in
her few auction offerings to date. Her first auction offering, Transformation in Green and Red (2015)
(illustrated below) sold for $68,750 at Sotheby’s New York on May 17, 2018, well above the pre-sale
estimate of $15,000 - $20,000. Her next auction offering, Linked Lingam in blue, gray, pink and copper
(2018) (illustrated below) sold for $110,000
4
at Christie’s New York on September 27, 2018, far sur-
passing its pre-sale estimate of $20,000 - $30,000. Each of these works is 28 by 21 inches.
Despite these auction prices, Pace Gallery, which represents Holowell, was offering her 48-by-36 inch
paintings for $55,000 each as of January 2019. Pace said that their prices did not change significantly
over the past several months, despite the high sales at auction. Although the stellar performance of
4
All auction prices cited in this article include the buyer’s premium.
The Dynamics of Valuing Emerging Art and Artists
International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services
these works at auction might have signaled to Pace that a price increase was warranted, the gallery
presumably maintained the price structure to guard against inflation, maintaining close control of mar-
ket growth.
5
(l.) Loie Holowell, Transformation in Red and Green, 2015, oil on linen and panel, 28 by 21 inches (71.12
by 53.34 cm). Sold for $68,750 at Sotheby’s New York on May 17, 2018.
(r.) Loie Holowell, Linked Lingam in blue, gray, pink and copper, 2018, oil, acrylic, sawdust, and high-
density foam on canvas mounted on panel, 28 by 21 inches (71.12 by 53.34 cm). Sold for $110,000 at
Christie’s New York on September 27, 2018.
5
Holowell’s auction record was set on March 1, 2019, when HUNG(UP), a 48-by-36-inch work sold for $200,000 at So-
theby’s New York against a pre-sale estimate of $50,000 - $70,000.
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
One can observe a similar pattern in the market for Christina Quarles (American, b. 1985), known for
colorful paintings of abstracted long-limbed figures, which, according to her explanation, explore am-
biguities stemming from her identity as a queer woman of mixed race.
6
Just two years after receiving
an MFA from Yale University, and one year after her first solo show at a commercial gallery, David
Castillo (Miami), one of Quarles’s paintings, Pull on Thru Tha Nite (2017) (illustrated below), sold for
$225,000 in her auction debut at Phillips New York on November 15, 2018, far surpassing its pre-sale
estimate of $30,000 - $50,000. This price was several times higher than the prices for which her paint-
ings sell in the primary market at retail galleries. As of February 2019, the gallery Pilar Corrias, which
represents Quarles in London, stated that their prices for her paintings are in the range of $50,000 -
$60,000, but at the time, the gallery had none to offer, and thus, one can reasonably expect that in
such an environment of scarce supply, if another painting by Quarles were to be offered at auction, it
would again command a price far higher than gallery prices. Although such control of primary-market
prices guards against inflation, which can have pernicious effects on the market for emerging art, it
also limits the financial benefit to the artist, as the strong prices on the secondary market afford the
artist little or no benefit, with the windfall going to the re-seller.
7
6
See Christina Quarles’s website: https://christinaquarles.com/About. See also the website for gallery Pilar Corrias
(London), which represents her: https://www.pilarcorrias.com/artists/christina-quarles/biography/
7
In the United States, resale royalties are only given to the artist in California, and only under certain conditions. In the
United Kingdom, the Artist’s Resale Right allows for a small percentage of resale revenue is to be returned to the artist.
See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/artists-resale-right
The Dynamics of Valuing Emerging Art and Artists
International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services
Christina Quarles, Pull on Thru Tha Nite, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 60 by 56 inches (152.4 by 142.24 cm).
Sold for $225,000 at Phillips New York on November 15, 2018.
The striking differences between auction and retail prices for highly sought-after emerging artists such
as Holowell and Quarles might cause the appraiser to dispense with conventional wisdom when de-
termining the most appropriate marketplace for identifying comparable sales data for a valuation as-
signment. In such cases, the retail gallery does not constitute the highest market. With auction being
the highest market for these artists, the usual discrepancy between Fair Market Value and Retail Re-
placement Value collapses, and the two types of value are essentially indistinguishable.
Exponential growth in the prices for emerging artists may also take place entirely in the dealer market,
as in the example of Amy Sherald (American, b. 1973), whose paintings of African-American figures,
typically set against flat monochromatic backgrounds, rose to national attention following her
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
commissioned portrait of Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, the
first of its kind for an African-American woman.
8
Beginning in 2015, Sherald’s works sold in the range
of $8,500 to $10,000 at Monique Meloche Gallery (Chicago). By December 2017, following the an-
nouncement of the Obama commission, the gallery had, at the Untitled Art Fair in Miami, sold three
of her works, all to museums, for $50,000 each. On March 20, 2018, mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth
announced exclusive worldwide representation of Sherald,
9
increasing her visibility and her prices; in
December 2018, at Art Basel Miami Beach, Hauser & Wirth sold Sherald’s When I let go of what I am, I
become what I might be (Self-imagined atlas) (2018) (illustrated below) to a museum for $175,000.
10
With
such high demand and limited supply, it is likely that if a recent work by Sherald were to be offered at
auction, it would command a much higher price than her current primary-market retail prices.
8
The commissioned portrait of Barack Obama was painted by another African-American artist Kehinde Wiley (Ameri-
can, b. 1977). At the time of the commissions, Wiley was significantly more established, having long exhibited with ma-
jor galleries, and his work long been collected by major museums; Wiley’s work was the subject of a solo exhibition at
the Brooklyn Museum (February 20 May 24, 2015).
9
See Hauser & Wirth’s archived announcement: https://www.hauserwirth.com/stories/15541-hauser-wirth-announces-
exclusive-worldwide-representation-american-artist-amy-sherald
10
See: Anna Louise Sussman, “Demand Soars for Amy Sherald’s Work Following Obama Portrait Reveal”, Artsy, Feb.
16, 2018 https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-demand-soars-amy-sheralds-work-obama-portrait-reveal. See also:
Andrew Goldstein: “Amy Sherald, Michelle Obama’s Chosen Portraitist, Is Now a Bona Fide Art-Market Success
Story,” Artnet News, December 6, 2017, https://news.artnet.com/art-world/amy-sherald-rising-star-untitled-miami-
beach-2017-1171190. See also: Caroline Goldstein, “Price Check! Here’s What Sold And For How Much At Art Ba-
sel in Miami Beach 2018,” Artnet News, December 10, 2018, https://news.artnet.com/market/price-check-art-basel-in-
miami-beach-1413343.
The Dynamics of Valuing Emerging Art and Artists
International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services
Amy Sherald, When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be (Self-imagined atlas), 2018, oil on canvas,
54 by 43 inches (137.16 by 109.22 cm). Sold for $175,000 by Hauser & Wirth at Art Basel Miami
Beach in December 2018.
The fast emergence of markets for artists such as Holowell, Quarles, and Sherald has ramifications for
a variety of appraisal purposes. One notable example is appraisal for the purpose of establishing values
for scheduled insurance policies. Whereas in some market sectors, values generally change slowly,
making the need for appraisal updates far from urgent, the rapidity with which markets develop for
many emerging artists means that a scheduled insurance policy from just a year ago would today be
highly outdated and insufficient for providing proper coverage for works by many artists.
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
While there are no reliable predictors for such dramatic increases in value, it is relevant to consider
patterns of emergence in relation to larger collecting trends, including those at the uppermost echelons
of the market. In the past few years in particular, collectors at various levels of the market have demon-
strated significant interest in diversifying their collections with respect to the identity of the artist,
including gender, race, and ethnicity. This desire has been expressed in several well-publicized exam-
ples at the top of the market, such as the sale of Georgia O’Keeffe’s (American, 1887-1986) Jimson
Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932) to the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art for over $44 million at Sotheby’s
on November 20, 2014, eclipsing the previous record for a female artist.
Among the high-profile sales of works by African-American artists in recent years, one can look to
the example of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s (American, 1960-1988) untitled head, which sold to Japanese
collector Yusaku Maezawa for slightly over $110 million, setting all-time auction records both for a
work of American art and a work of art created after 1980. As another example, Kerry James Marshall’s
(American, b. 1955) Past Times sold to rapper and media mogul Sean Combs (Diddy) for slightly over
$21 million at Sotheby’s New York on May 16, 2018, setting the record for a living African-American
artist. Concurrently, there have been several notable exhibitions highlighting the achievements of con-
temporary black artists.
11
At a moment when the art world is seeking, in various ways, to address past inequalities in represen-
tation, demand is strong for artists with the capacity to diversify collections, particularly those whose
11
These include “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” at the Tate Modern (July 12 October 22, 2017), the
Brooklyn Museum (September 14, 2018 February 3, 2019), and the Broad, Los Angeles (March 23 September 1,
2019); Basquiat: Boom for Real” at the Barbican Art Gallery, London (September 21, 2018 January 28, 2018); “Jean
Michel-Basquiat” at the Brant Foundation, New York (March 6 May 15, 2019); “The Music of Color: Sam Gilliam,
1967-1973” at the Kunstmuseum Basel (June 9 September 30, 2018); “Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965-
2016” at The Museum of Modern Art (March 31 July 22, 2018); “Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture, 1963-2017” at the
Baltimore Museum of Art (April 22 July 29, 2018) and the Met Breuer (September 6 December 2, 2018); and
“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song for a Cipher” at the New Museum (May 3 September 3, 2017), among many
others.
The Dynamics of Valuing Emerging Art and Artists
International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services
works address issues of identity. With prices for many established African-American artists increas-
ingly out of reach for many collectors, there is presently strong demand for those who have more
recently entered the market, such as, among many others, Jordan Casteel (American, b. 1992),
12
Derek
Fordjour (American, b. 1974),
13
Jennifer Packer (American, b. 1984),
14
Tschabalala Self (American, b.
1990),
15
and Vaughn Spann (American, b. 1992).
16
African-American artist Jonathan Lyndon Chase (American, b. 1989)’s loosely-rendered paintings on
themes related to his identity as a gay black man, were priced between $10,000 - $15,000 in two sold-
out solo shows in 2018, one at Company Gallery (New York), the other at Kohn Gallery (Los Ange-
les). Despite these relatively low prices, Josh Friedman, associate director of Kohn gallery, said:
[The exhibition] probably could have sold out five times over […] We didn’t raise the prices
for this show too much because our goal was placement and we wanted to make sure that the
works were affordable for institutions […] Just because demand is high doesn’t always mean
it’s correct to push prices up. […] He’s a young artist and we want him and his prices to grow
in tandem.
17
12
Casteel’s second auction offering, Patrick and Omari (2015) sold for £299,250 ($393,809) at Christie’s London on
March 6, 2019 against an estimate of £40,000 - £60,000 ($52,639 - $78,959). Earlier that week dealer Casey Kaplan was
offering her paintings in the range of $35,000 - $50,000 at The Art Show of the Art Dealers Association of America
(ADAA) at the Park Avenue Armory in New York.
13
Josh Liley Gallery (London) sold eight of Fordjour’s works at Art Basel Miami Beach in December 2018, priced be-
tween $25,000 - $60,000. See Goldstein 2018.
14
Packer is represented by the prominent New York gallery Sikkema Jenkins & Co., which is currently offering her
works for up to $75,000 each.
15
Self is represented by Pilar Corrias (London) and Thierry Goldberg Gallery (New York). Less than four years after
receiving an MFA from Yale University, her work is in numerous significant public collections including the Hammer
Museum (Los Angeles), Perez Museum (Miami), and the Rubell Family Collection (Miami). Her auction debut took
place on March 7, 2019, when Lilith (2015) sold at Phillips London for £125,000 ($164,236), appreciably above the pre-
sale estimate of £40,000 - £60,000 ($52,555 - $78,833).
16
Within a year after receiving his MFA from Yale, Spann, primarily an abstract painter, has had a solo exhibition with
Half Gallery (New York), run by influential tastemaker Bill Powers, and has been works purchased by such powerful
collectors as the Rubell family and Beth Rudin de Woody. David Castillo Gallery sold a painting by Spann for $25,000 at
Art Basel Miami Beach in December 2018.
17
As quoted in Henri Neuendorf, “With Back-To-Back Sold-Out Shows, the 28-Year-Old Painter Jonathan Lyndon
Chase Is a Young Artist to Watch,” Artnet News, June 29, 2018, https://news.artnet.com/market/jonathan-lyndon-
chase-market-1309103. See also Eileen Kinsella, “Three Museums Rush to Buy Works by Jonathan Lyndon Chase,” Art-
net News, March 6, 2019, https://news.artnet.com/market/jonathan-lyndon-chase-1482409. In this article, published on
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
The market for emerging art is, however, far from a one-way street; prices for works by emerging
artists may contract as rapidly as they expand. Dealers’ caution in pricing works by emerging artists
today may in part be a reaction to a heavily speculated market in the earlier part of this decade, shortly
after recovery from the financial crisis and culminating in 2014, after which, in the words of art-market
journalist Georgina Adam, “[t]he speculative bubble in emerging artists popped loudly.”
18
In a February 2014 article in Bloomberg about speculation on emerging artists, art-market journalist
Katya Kazakina identified the trend of putting work to auction early in the artists’ careers:
Flipping has picked up as wealthy collectors chase paintings by emerging artists with the goal
of reselling them quickly for a profit, a strategy some advisers say may be a sign that the con-
temporary art market is taking on characteristics of a financial bubble. From 2011 through
2013, the number of works three years old or younger sold at auction topped 7,300 annually,
compared with 4,023 in 2007 when the art market was peaking, according to research firm
Artnet Worldwide Corp.
19
The vicissitudes in prices for emerging art during this period are perhaps exemplified by a group of
process-based abstract artists, dubbed somewhat mockingly the “Zombie Formalistsby artist-critic
Walter Robinson, who gave as examples Jacob Kassay (American, b. 1984)’s canvases covered with
silver applied with an electroplating process; Lucien Smith (American, b. 1989)’s “Rain Paintings,” in
which paint is applied with a fire extinguisher; and several examples of works that resemble paintings
the occasion of the Armory Show of March 2019, the prices for Chase’s paintings were said to be $20,000 on average,
but no source is cited. Collectors were said to include the Walker Art Center; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami;
Beth Rudin DeWoody, and the Hort family.
18
Georgina Adam, Dark Side of the Boom: The Excesses of the Art Market in the 21
st
Century, London: Lund Humphries, 2018,
p. 160.
19
Katya Kazakina, “Art Flippers Chase Fresh Stars as Murillo’s Doodles Soar”, Bloomberg, February 7, 2014,
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-06/art-flippers-chase-fresh-stars-as-murillo-s-doodles-soar.html
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but are made with materials other than paint, such as Chris Duncan’s “ghostly square monochrome
whose surface is made from horizontal rows of strapping tape(illustrated below) and other similar
works in a show called “Ain’tings” curated by Ryan Steadman at Robert Blumenthal Gallery in New
York (March 20 April 26, 2014).
20
Chris Duncan, FADE #6 (A.I.W.I.L.I.A.B.O.L.T.T.T.P.A.), 2014, Strapping tape, glue, plexi, paper,
wood filler, matte finish on panel with maple frame, 49¼ by 49¼ by 1⅞ inches (125.1 by 125.1 by
4.76 cm)
At the time of Robinson’s article, roughly the market peak for emerging process-based abstract art,
the high auction price for a Kassay was $317,000, realized at Phillips New York on November 11,
2013 for an untitled 2011 work (illustrated below), far exceeding the pre-sale estimate of $150,000 -
20
See: Walter Robinson, “Flipping and the Rise of Zombie Formalism,” Artspace, April 3, 2014,.
https://www.artspace.com/magazine/contributors/see_here/the_rise_of_zombie_formalism-52184
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Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
$200,000. Another untitled Kassay piece (illustrated below) created in 2012 with the same technique
and at the same size and similar in appearance sold for only $47,500 at Christie’s Online on December
12, 2018, against an estimate of $40,000 - $60,000. The price realized was approximately 15% of the
high price realized in 2013.
(l.) Jacob Kassay, Untitled, 2011, acrylic and silver deposit on canvas, 84 by 60 inches (213.4 by 152.4
cm). Sold for $317,000 at Phillips New York on November 11, 2013.
(r.) Jacob Kassay, Untitled, 2012, acrylic and silver deposit on canvas, 84 by 60 inches (213.3 by 152.4
cm). Sold for $47,500 at Christie’s Online on December 12, 2018.
Similarly, at the time of Robinson’s article, the high price for a Smith “Rain Painting” was £224,500
($372,120),
21
for Two sides of the same coin (2012) (illustrated below) at Sotheby’s London on February
21
Currency conversions used in this article generally follow from those published by the price databases Artnet and
Artprice. There are sometimes very minor discrepancies among the published currency conversions.
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12, 2014, against an estimate of £40,000 - £60,000 ($66,302 - $99,453).
22
A Smith “Rain Painting”,
Close Your Eyes & What Do You See (2012) (illustrated below) sold for £20,000 ($26,486) at Phillips
London on June 26, 2018 against an estimate of £15,000 - £20,000 ($19,864 - $26,486); this work is
identical in size, style, technique, and color as the high sale in 2014, but it sold for approximately 7%
of the 2014 price.
23
(l.) Lucien Smith, Two side of the same coin, 2012, acrylic on unprimed canvas, 96 by 72 inches (243.8 by
182.8 cm). Sold for $372,120 at Sotheby’s London on February 12, 2014.
(r.) Lucien Smith, Close Your Eyes & What Do You See, 2012, acrylic on unprimed linen, 95⅞ by 72
inches (243.8 by 182.9 cm). Sold for $26,486 at Phillips London on June 26, 2018.
22
At the time of Robinson’s article, another Smith painting, though not a “Rain Painting” had sold for an even higher
price. His painting Hobbes, The Rain Man, and My Friend Barney / Under the Sycamore Tree (2011) sold for $389,000 at Phil-
lips New York on November 11, 2013, far above the pre-sale estimate of $100,000 - $150,000. That sale, his auction de-
but, remains his highest price at auction to date.
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
In a New York magazine article of June 17, 2014, art critic Jerry Saltz elaborated upon Robinson’s
critical address of “Zombie Formalism,” identifying a number of specific ways in which process-based
abstract art was being made, and observing that certain strategies and effects closely resemble one
another in the practices of various artists: He writes:
Edge-to-edge, geometric, or biomorphic composition is de rigueur, as are irregular grids, lattice
and moiré patterns, ovular shapes, and stripes, with maybe some collage. Many times, stretcher
bars play a part. This is supposed to tell us, “See, I know I’m a painting—and I’m not glitzy
like something from Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons.”
24
The markets for a significant number of the artists named by Saltz in this article surged and subse-
quently declined in patterns similar to those of Kassay and Smith. These include (among many others):
Nick Darmstaedter’s (American, b. 1988) oxidized-copper-on-canvas works reached an auc-
tion peak when Suck (2013) sold for $149,000 at Sotheby’s New York on September 24, 2014,
several times above the pre-sale estimate of $18,000 - $25,000. Multiplicity (2013), which is
identical in size, technique, date of creation, and color, sold for just $21,114 on June 30, 2017
at Phillips London, against a pre-sale estimate of £15,000 - £20,000 ($19,430 - $25,907); this
is 14% of the 2014 sale.
Louis Eisner’s (American, b. 1988) grid-patterned ink-on-Sheetrock works were temporarily
popular at auction. On May 15, 2014, one such work from the “Knucklehead” series sold for
$53,125 at Sotheby’s New York. On December 8, 2016, a work identical in technique, style,
and size made only £6,250 ($7,800) at Phillips London, about 15% of the 2014 high price.
24
Jerry Saltz, “Zombies on the Walls: Why Does So Much New Abstraction Look the Same?” New York, June 17, 2014,
https://www.vulture.com/2014/06/why-new-abstract-paintings-look-the-same.html.
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David Ostrowski (German, b. 1981) became known for casually-styled white near-mono-
chrome abstractions with collaged elements and lacquer. His auction record for one such work
was set when F (Gee Vaucher) (2012) sold for £170,500 ($292,653) at Phillips London on July
2, 2014. F (Jet Grill), which is identical in style, technique, and size, and similar in quality sold
for £37,500 ($51,982) at Phillips London on March 9, 2018, about 18% of the high 2012 price.
Ned Vena (American, b. 1982) is known for paintings in which two canvases are stretched
over the same support, and both are flooded violet Garvey ink, which is normally used in
supermarket price markers. The market for these paintings, which allude both to Frank Stella’s
paintings from the 60s and Andy Warhol’s Rorshach paintings, peaked in 2014 and has sub-
sequently crashed. The high price at auction for one such painting was $125,000, realized on
November 12, 2013 at Phillips New York; a similar painting at the same size sold for £6,250
($8,870) at Sotheby’s London on April 11, 2018, about 7% of the high 2013 price. These works
are illustrated below.
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
(l.) Ned Vena, Untitled, 2012, Garvey ink and acrylic in canvas, 84 by 48 inches (213.4 by 121.9 cm).
Sold for $125,000 at Phillips New York on November 12, 2013.
(r.) Ned Vena, Untitled, 2012, Garvey ink and acrylic in canvas, 84 by 48 inches (213.5 by 122 cm).
Sold for £6,250 ($8,870) at Sotheby’s London on April 11, 2018.
One might opine on the role that negative press may have in scaring the market, particularly when
coming from such a critic as popular as Saltz. Or, perhaps more compellingly, one might observe
changing tastes. Given the strong market interest in recent years in art that treats issues of identity
(often taking the form of figurative representation), it might stand to reason that non-objective pro-
cess-based abstract painting would fall out of favor in proportion with raised interest in other forms
of expression.
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Diminishing prices are significant to appraisals in several ways. Whereas collectors are generally eager
to update their insurance policies when they buy artists whose markets are rapidly expanding, insur-
ance companies issuing scheduled policies may encourage collectors to have their policies updated so
that scheduled values reflect market realities, such that in the event of a loss, the carrier would not be
liable for paying beyond the true value of the work. Also, some collectors may wish not to pay exces-
sive premiums for unwarranted coverage. Additionally, lenders using emerging art as collateral may
wish to structure loans such that the appraisals are re-visited more frequently than they might be when
lending against art in other, less volatile, market sectors, so that lenders do not find themselves ex-
tended beyond what is possible to recover if they need to take possession of the art and then try to
sell it.
In analyzing emerging art, it is important to consider the discourse that articulates the meaning of the
art, as this may affect demand and consequently value. Works that share certain aesthetic and/or
structural similarities may be considered very different in the minds of collectors, and thus may have
very different values and value trajectories.
As a counterpoint to the Zombie Formalists, one can consider the example of Theaster Gates (Amer-
ican, b. 1973), a Chicago-based multi-media artist known for repurposing and reconfiguring objects,
particularly those related to African-American history. Gates’s first solo show, which took place at
Kavi Gupta Gallery (Chicago) in April 2011, sold out, with prices ranging from $20,000 - $50,000.
25
Most of the works in the exhibition included decommissioned fire hoses, referring to police hosing of
25
Katya Kazakina, “Fire Hoses for $39,000 Bring Fame to Theaster Gates: Hot Art,” Bloomberg, August 16, 2011,
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2011-08-16/fire-hose-art-for-39-000-brings-fame-to-hot-urban-recycler-
theaster-gates. In addition to making objects, Gates is the founding executive director of the Rebuild Foundation, which
according to the mission on its website, “collaborate[s] to extend the social engagement of Gates’ studio practice to the
South Side of Chicago and beyond.” (See: See: Rebuild Foundation, https://rebuild-foundation.org/our-story/)
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Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
civil-rights demonstrators in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama.
26
In 2018, a Gates flattened-fire-hose
piece, A Flag for the Least of Them (illustrated below), sold for $807,000 in the (RED) auction to fight
AIDS in Africa, held in Miami by Gagosian and Sotheby’s and curated by Gates himself (who recently
signed with Gagosian) along with architect David Adjaye. The price, Gates’s new auction record,
soared above the pre-sale estimate of $450,000 $500,000, and above his previous auction record of
$459,000, also for a flattened-fire-hose work, Stars Over Harlem, which sold at Sotheby’s New York on
May 17, 2018 against an estimate of $250,000 - $350,000. These fire-hose pieces, his most sought-after
works, are essentially paint-less monochromatic abstract paintings. As such, they have both material
and aesthetic affinity with many of the process-based abstract works maligned as “Zombie Formal-
ism,” differing hardly at all in any structural way but rather in the discourse of social and political
engagement that has been attached to them. Appraisers of emerging art must be keenly aware of the
narratives that articulate individual artists’ practices and even individual works of art, as visual affinity
may deceive and in many cases has little or no relation to market patterns.
26
This narrative about the meaning of the fire hoses has been reiterated widely, including in web text used by the Brook-
lyn Museum (https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/197576) and the Tate
(https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gates-civil-tapestry-4-l03666).
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Theaster Gates, A Flag for the Least of Them, 2018, decommissioned fire hose, 59⅞ by 84⅝ inches
(152.1 by 214.9 cm). Sold for $807,000 in the (RED) auction, held in Miami by Gagosian and Sotheby’s
in December 2018.
The advent of social media has altered the environment by which artists publicize their work. Stefan
Simchowitz, who is known for flipping works of emerging art, has commented:
[I]n 2006 you have the emergence of what is essentially the mainstream social media [….]
More people see the art, more people can consume it and engage with it, and, more im-
portantly, many more people have started taking and sharing photos and describing what
they’re seeing. […]
In this way, the curator, the critic, and the context become fragmented, and we go from a
hierarchical system that’s controlled from the top to a system that’s more like a beehive [….]
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Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
This is changing the way culture is distributed and marketed and thought about, which I think
is pretty radical.
27
Some artists have used the direct-marketing capacity of social media to create markets outside the
traditional gallery structure, one example being C.J. Hendry (Australian, b. 1988), who has used Insta-
gram to generate tremendous market demand for her precise color-pencil drawings of objects. In the
book Art Collecting Today, art economist Doug Woodham observes that Hendry, obscure only a few
years earlier, had 265,000 followers on Instagram as of November 2016, then the fifth-highest Insta-
gram following for an artist, after only Bansky, JR (French, b. 1983), Shepard Fairey (American, b.
1970), and KAWS (a.k.a. Brian Donnelly, American, b. 1974), and ahead of major mainstream artists,
in this order: Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957), Takashi Murakami (Japanese, b. 1962), Jeff Koons (Amer-
ican, b. 1955), and Damien Hirst (British, b. 1965). By November 2016, Hendry’s prices were as high
as $80,000 per work. As of December 5, 2018, when a profile on her was published in Artnet News,
Hendry, who did not go to art school, still sold most of her work directly through Instagram, not
through a gallery; to date, her work appears to have no auction history. Consequently, an appraiser
valuing a work by Hendry would find the highest and most appropriate comparable sales data in the
social-media market.
28
For other artists, social media has enabled entrance to the mainstream gallery system through encoun-
ters that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain. One such example is Genieve Figgis
(Irish, b. 1972), whose Twitter posts of her macabre cartoonish paintings caught the attention of
Richard Prince (American, b. 1949), who purchased one and helped her gain access to the art world.
27
Interview by Andrew Goldstein, “Cultural Entrepreneur Stefan Simchowitz on the Merits of Flipping, and Being a
‘Great Collector,’” Artspace, March 29, 2014, https://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/how_i_col-
lect/stefan_simchowitz_interview-52164
28
See: Doug Woodham, Art Collecting Today, New York: Allworth, 2017, p. 18. See also: “In the Studio with Cj Hendry,”
Artnet News, https://news.artnet.com/in-the-studio/go-inside-artists-studio-cj-hendry-watch-make-viral-photorealistic-
drawings-1404796. See also: “Australian artist CJ Hendry tries New York on for size,” November 3, 2016,
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/04/australian-artist-cj-hendry-tries-new-york-on-for-size.
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Figgis has since had solo exhibitions at such noted galleries as Half Gallery (New York) and Almine
Rech Gallery (Paris and Brussels).
29
Figgis’s work debuted at auction on July 18, 2018, when her paint-
ing Downstairs (2014) sold for $20,000 at Christie’s, First Open Online: Post-War and Contemporary
Art, considerably above the pre-sale estimate of $8,000 - $10,000.
Artist Brad Phillips (Canadian, b. 1973), who is well known for his Instagram account, observed in a
2016 article about Instagram and the art world:
How would I, they, anyone, have found a way to connect with Richard Prince before Insta-
gram? An earnest letter and a CD of images? I can guarantee that even if someone were able
to track down Prince's home address, such a package would have been immediately thrown in
the garbage by his assistants.
30
29
See Dominique Mucols, “Genieve Figgis,” Flaunt, January 11, 2016, http://www.flaunt.com/content/art/genieve-
figgis. See also: “An Interview with Geneive Figgis, Purple Diary, http://purple.fr/diary/an-interview-with-genieve-fig-
gis/
30
Brad Phillips, “How Instagram Is Changing the Art World,” Vice, May 18, 2016, https://www.vice.com/en_us/arti-
cle/zn8ezy/how-instagram-is-changing-the-art-world. As noted above Figgis was discovered on Twitter, not Instagram.
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
Genieve Figgis, Downstairs, 2014, acrylic on panel, 24 by 26⅜ inches (61 by 67 cm), sold for $20,000
at Christie’s, First Open Online: Post-War and Contemporary Art on July 18, 2018
Although examples such as Hendry and Figgis are tantalizing Cinderella stories of the democratization
of opportunity for emergence, the advent of social media has also created an infinitely expanding data
set that has the potential to be harvested and quantified for speculative purposes, which may work
against many emerging artists, with those in its possession favoring what is already proven to be in
fashion.
Among the products available in the advisory market for emerging art is Carlos Rivera’s ArtRank
(formerly called Sell You Later), a website that began in 2014 with the following categories: “Buy Now
< $10,000,” “Buy Now <$30,000,” “Buy Now <$100,000,” “Sell Now/Peaking,” and “Liquidate.” In
the Q3/2015 report, the category of “Liquidate” was replaced with the more benign-sounding
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category of “Undervalued Blue Chip.” ArtRank is freely available to general users, and available to
early-access subscribers for $3,500 per quarter, whose purchase gives them earlier information about
which artists to buy and which to sell.
Georgina Adam interviewed Rivera, who explained his motivations behind the website:
“I wanted to know what makes a Christopher Wool worth $15 million and when I looked into
the art world there were no metrics at all,” he says. He wanted to find the variables in other
artworks that matched up to the nine he had identified.
31
Adam observes that Rivera, working with a financial engineer and a scientist, created rankings through
an algorithm comprising diverse data including “the number of hits on Instagram and other social
media, auction results, market saturation and support, and museum representation.”
32
The outcomes of ArtRank’s predictions have varied. Rivera, as cited by Adam, identifies Njideka Aku-
nyili Crosby (Nigerian, b. 1983) as an example of the success of his predictions, given his categoriza-
tion of her in 2015 as a “buy” at $50,000
33
. Crosby, who is known for large-scale works on paper
depicting intimate spaces, which often include self-portraits with her husband, and incorporate photo
transfers of Nigerian advertisements, has emerged rapidly as a major figure on the international scene.
Her auction debut was in September 2016, when a fairly small untitled work sold for $93,750 at So-
theby’s New York against an estimate of $18,000 - $25,000. Her next auction sale and first of a major
work, Drown, took place less than two months later, immediately after her first solo show at the noted
gallery Victoria Miro (London), and it fetched slightly under $1,092,500 at Sotheby’s New York on
November 17, 2016, far above the pre-sale estimate of $200,000 - $300,000. Less than four months
31
As cited by Adam 2018, p. 159.
32
Adam 2018, p. 159.
33
In ArtRank’s online archives, she first appears in the Q1/2016 report under “Early Blue Chip.”
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Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
later, her auction record crossed the three-million-dollar mark, when, on March 7, 2017, The Beautyful
Ones (2012) (illustrated below) sold for £2,517,000 ($3,072,884), dramatically surpassing the pre-sale
estimate of £400,000 - £600,000 ($488,340 - $732,511).
34
Victoria Miro has a long waiting list for her
works, with primary-market sales largely reserved for museums,
35
and mega-gallery David Zwirner has
recently announced co-representation of her work. So, by any measure, Rivera’s prediction of her
success was accurate, as her market has, so far, gone only in one direction up.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby, The Beautyful Ones, 2012, acrylic, pastel, color pencil, and Xerox transfer on
paper, 95⅝ by 66⅞ inches (243 by 170 cm). Sold for £2,517,000 ($3,072,884) at Christie’s London
on March 7, 2017.
34
Crosby’s current auction record is $3,375,000, set at Sotheby’s New York on May 16, 2018 for Bush Babies a signifi-
cantly smaller work with no figures, which carried a pre-sale estimate of $600,000 - $800,000.
35
Matt Carey-Williams of Victoria Miro communicated this at Art Basel Miami Beach in December 2018. At the fair, the
gallery sold a secondary-market work lacking figures, Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu, for $2,200,000; the piece had previ-
ously sold for 7,020,000 HKD ($990,819) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on May 27, 2017, against an estimate of 6,200,000 –
9,400,000 HKD ($795,595 - $1,206,226). Carey-Williams observed that Crosby’s most sought-after works contain fig-
ures.
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Another example of an accurate prediction on ArtRank is Avery Singer (American, b. 1987), who is
known for grayscale paintings of mechanamorphic figures. She topped the “Buy Under $100,000”
group in Q2/2015 and Q4/2015, and was #2 in that category in Q3/2015. She has subsequently
become an unqualified success at auction, with four auction sales over $300,000 in 2018, including a
high price of $735,000 for Fellow Travelers, Flaming Creatures (illustrated below) at Sotheby’s New York
on May 6, 2018, many multiples above the pre-sale estimate of $80,000 - $120,000. Singer is now
represented by a major gallery, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise (New York) and will be included in the
upcoming exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2019, “May You Live in Interesting Times.”
36
Avery Singer, Fellow Travelers, Flaming Creatures, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 86 by 132 inches (218.4 by
335.3 cm). Sold for $735,000 at Sotheby’s New York on May 6, 2018.
36
The list of artists included in the Venice Biennale exhibition is here: https://www.labiennale.org/en/art/2019/artists
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
In other cases, the accuracy of ArtRank’s buying advice depends on the time horizon. One can look
to the example of Korakrit Arunanondchai (Thai, b. 1986), a cross-disciplinary artist best known for
his painting-like compositions of irregular patterns of blue and white made from bleached denim with
collaged photographs of fire; these works gained significant market attention shortly after
Arunanondchai received his MFA from Columbia University. Arunanondchai is included in the “Buy
Now < $100,000” group in ArtRank’s reports for each of the four quarters of 2014 (#7 in Q1, #1 in
Q2, #4 in Q3, and #2 in Q4). His work debuted at auction during that time: a mixed-media painting
Untitled (White Temple Painting) sold for $53,125 at Sotheby’s New York on May 15, 2014, far above the
pre-sale estimate of $12,000 - $18,000. The following year, another work in this style, Untitled (History
Painting) (2013) (illustrated below), sold for £96,100 ($148,371) at Christie’s London on October 17,
2015 against an estimate of £30,000 - £40,000 ($46,317 - $61,756), setting a record that stands, by far,
today.
On September 28, 2016, less than a year after ArtRank’s publication of the advice to buy
Arunanondchai, a work that is identical in size and style, Untitled (History Painting) (2013) (illustrated
below) sold for about half the price$75,000—at Christie’s New York, against a pre-sale estimate
was $40,000 - $60,000, indicating the auction house’s understanding that the market had already con-
tracted significantly. As of February 2019, works by the artist were on offer from the gallery Car-
los/Ishikawa (London) in the range of $60,000 - $100,000. However, Arunanondchai was announced
for inclusion in both the 2019 edition of the Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale 2019 exhibi-
tion, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” both of which will open in May. So, Arunanondchai’s
market may be poised for a new surge, as collectors often pay close attention to such prestigious
exhibitions.
37
So the advice on ArtRank may have been good for the short-term speculator, bad for
those with a medium-term horizon, and possibly sound for those with a longer-term horizon.
37
The full list of artists to be included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial (May 17 September 22), curated by Jane Panetta
and Rujeko Hockley is included on the museum’s website. See: https://whitney.org/exhibitions/2019-Biennial. See also:
Alex Greenberger, “Here’s the Artist List for the 2019 Whitney Biennial,” ARTnews, February 25, 2019, http://www.art-
news.com/2019/02/25/heres-artist-list-2019-whitney-biennial/. In the ARTnews article on the artists selected,
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(l.) Korakrit Arunanondchai, Untitled (History Painting), 2013, burnt bleached denim, 86 by 64 inches
(218.5 by 162.5 cm). Sold for £96,100 ($148,371) at Christie’s London on October 17, 2015.
(r.) Korakrit Arunanondchai, Untitled (History Painting), 2013, denim, inkjet print and canvas 86 by 64
inches (218.5 by 162.5 cm). Sold for $75,000 at Christie’s New York on September 28, 2016.
ArtRank’s advice for selling has also been of mixed utility. In some cases, the advice to sell would be
proven wrong if one were to consider a horizon of a few years, as opposed to months. One such
example is that of KAWS (Brian Donnelly) (American, b. 1974), who is known for works in a variety
of media that draw inspiration from graffiti and cartoons. Artrank listed KAWS as #4 in the
“Sell/Peaking” group of their Q1/2014 report, which was released to “early access” subscribers on
February 28, 2014. At that time, KAWS’s auction record stood at $293,000, set for Untitled (2008)
(illustrated below) at Sotheby’s New York on November 14, 2013, above its pre-sale estimate of
Arunanondchai, despite his recent market downturn, is singled out along with Elle Pérez (American, b. 1989), Paul
Mpagi Sepuya (American, b. 1982), and Martine Syms (American, b. 1988), as one of “today’s most closely watched
emerging artists.”
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Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
$100,000 - $150,000. Perhaps at the time, it seemed that the market for this kind of work was not
poised to develop in the short term, and in fact in 2014, there were only two higher auction sales for
KAWS’s work, both for larger sculptures,
38
and in 2015 there were no KAWS auction sales above the
2013 sale.
However, in the past year, the market has grown precipitously for KAWS’s work. As of January 2019,
his top 21 auction prices were realized in 2018, topped by the sale of Untitled (Fatal Group) (illustrated
below) for $3,495,000 at Phillips New York on November 15, 2018, far above the pre-sale estimate
of $700,000 - $900,000. Among the 35 KAWS works that sold for more than the 2013 record at the
time of ArtRank’s Q1/2014 report, 25 took place in 2018 (five of which made over $1 million each),
and seven more took place in 2017. The retail market has been favorable too: KAWS is now repre-
sented in the United States by Skarstedt gallery, which states that prices for new paintings are in the
range of $300,000 - $900,000, but as of January 17, 2019, the gallery had none available. As reported
by Artnet News following Art Basel Miami Beach 2018, an edition of 100 silkscreens by KAWS sold
out at $65,000 each.
39
KAWS’s profile has also been raised by his associations: There has been publicity
about hip-hop music mogul and art collector Kasseem Dean (a.k.a. Swizz Beatz) collecting KAWS’s
work, including a colossal 19-foot wood sculpture of a lamenting Mickey Mouse, titled At This Time
(2013).
40
KAWS’s name recognition has also been strengthened by a number of commercial collabo-
rations outside the art world such as those with Nike for Air Jordan sneakers, and Sesame Street for
an apparel and toy line marketed by Uniqlo.
38
One Accomplice sculpture sold for £266,500 ($425,243) at Phillips London on October 15, 2014, and another sold for
$305,000 at Sotheby’s New York on May 15, 2014.
39
Goldstein 2018.
40
See, for example: Benjamin Sutton, “Swizz Beatz Has a KAWS Colossus at His House,” July 29, 2014,
https://news.artnet.com/art-world/swizz-beatz-has-a-kaws-colossus-at-his-house-68965. For a recent treatment of this
connection, see: M.H. Miller, “How Swizz Beatz Bridged the Worlds of Hip-Hop and Contemporary Art.” The New York
Times Style Magazine, February 13, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/t-magazine/swizz-beatz-art.html. In
that article, Swizz Beatz, who is also on the board of the Brooklyn Museum, is pictured seated next to KAWS, along
with three other emerging artists whose work he collects.
The Dynamics of Valuing Emerging Art and Artists
International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services
So, a collector relying on ArtRank’s Q1/2014 recommendation to sell KAWS at that time would have
almost certainly done so to his or her detriment, missing a period of tremendous market growth three
to four years later. This example shows the lack of reliability of forecasting in the field of emerging
art, as markets for individual artists often defy prediction, even when those predictions are made by
experienced professionals using a robust data set.
(l.) KAWS, Untitled, 2008, Acrylic on canvas, 50 by 60 inches (127 by 152.4 cm). Sold for $293,000 at
Sotheby’s New York on November 14, 2013.
(r.) KAWS, Untitled (Fatal Group), acrylic on canvas, 68⅛ by 68⅛ inches (173 by 173 cm). Sold for
$3,495,000 at Phillips New York on November 15, 2018.
Another data-driven project seeking to track the emergence of artists is that of Samuel P. Fraiberger,
Robert Sinatra, Magnus Resch, Christoph Reidl, and Albert-László Barabási, published last year in the
article “Quantifying reputation and success in art” in the journal Science
41
. A dataset collected by one
41
Samuel P. Fraiberger, Robert Sinatra, Magnus Resch, Christoph Reidl, and Albert-László Barabási, “Quantifying repu-
tation and success in art”, Science, http://barabasi.com/f/972.pdf
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
author’s firm, Magnus,
42
was created based on “information on artists’ exhibitions, auction sales, and
primary market quotes.”
43
The authors acknowledge: “Given the fragmented and often secretive na-
ture of transaction records, quantitative analyses of the art world have been difficult.” Indeed, as stated
above, dealer representations are frequently hard to verify because their sales are confidential, as pro-
tected by the provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) in the United States. Furthermore,
as discussed above, primary-market quotes are generally not to be considered reliable data for purposes
other than assessing Retail Replacement Value, because there is no guarantee that these sales will be
realized at or near the levels of primary-market asking prices; many works are discounted heavily, and
many others do not sell at all.
Despite the admitted limitation of data, the “Quantifying reputation” team used the above data as the
basis for interpreting career paths of artists, centering their analysis on the relative prestige of the
institutions at which they exhibited, underlined by a truism:
Prestigious institutions have access to well-regarded artists, and influential artists in turn tend
to seek out prestigious institutions.
44
Although the authors of the “Quantifying reputation” article acknowledge that “institutional prestige
is also highly subjective,” they rate the institutions on a scale of “A” (highest) through “D” (lowest),
based on factors including “longevity, the artists exhibited, size and quality of exhibition space, and
art fair participation.”
45
Analyzing art careers, artists were assigned high initial-reputation rankings if
their works were exhibited in the top 20% of institutions, according to their rankings. Their key con-
clusion was:
42
Magnus offers an eponymous mobile application that uses image-recognition software to allow users to photograph
works of art and submit them for identification. It is marketed as “Shazam for Art” due to its similarity to the app
Shazam, which recognizes and identifies musical tracks.
43
Fraiberger, et. al. 2018, p. 1
44
Fraiberger, et. al. 2018, p. 1.
45
Fraiberger, et. al. 2018, pp. 1-2.
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Overall, initial reputation (first five exhibits) [sic] predicted success across a variety of measures.
[…] [A]rt careers were characterized by a strong path dependence; artists starting in high-
prestige institutions […] showed a lower dropout rate and tended to maintain their status.
46
Certain findings from their study include:
High-initial reputation artists had twice as many exhibitions as low-initial reputation artists.
The work of a high-initial reputation artist was traded 4.7 times more often at auctions than
that of a low-initial reputation artist, at a maximum price that was 5.2 times higher.
The average maximum price of high-initial reputation artists was $193,064, compared to
$40,476 for low-initial reputation artists.
In their view, this model attempts to “codify the stratification of the art world, which limits access of
artists to institutions that would be beneficial to their career.”
47
Some of these findings are self-evident. One would hardly need an algorithm on institutional prestige
to observe that Matthew Barney (American, b. 1967), with solo exhibitions at Barbara Gladstone Gal-
lery and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) just two years out of Yale, was on a
promising path to continue exhibiting at top institutions throughout his career.
On the other hand, even the most sophisticated computational technology used by the most experi-
enced appraiser, advisor, or dealer might not predict much of the dynamic movement in the markets
46
Fraiberger, et. al. 2018, p. 2.
47
Fraiberger, et. al. 2018, p. 3.
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
for contemporary artists. In 1981, when Basquiat’s works were selling for $5,000 at Annina Nosei
Gallery, and works by fellow neo-Expressionist painter Julian Schnabel (American, b. 1951) were sell-
ing at Mary Boone Gallery for $40,000 up considerably from $3,000 - $3,500 just two years earlier,
it might have been difficult to predict that at the time of this article in 2019, Basquiat would hold the
record for a work of American art at auction with a sale for $110.5 million, which is about 76 times
the highest price paid at auction for a work by Schnabel.
48
Unlike other, more quantifiable fields, such as sports, in which early performance can predict career
outcomes with relative reliability,
49
career paths in fine art depend on a wide range of shifting variables
including many that are exogenous to innate ability and early institutional affiliation.
In recent years, there has been significant market attention on a number of older female and non-
white artists who were lesser known for much of their careers. Markets for these artists have risen
precipitously in patterns that one might more typically associate with younger artists, complicating
what it means to be an “emerging artist” and certainly defying predictions that might have been made
with a mathematical model emphasizing the importance of early-career institutional affiliations.
One can look at the example of Carmen Herrera (Cuban-American, b. 1915), who worked in essential
obscurity for decades, only emerging in the last two decades of her life. Herrera is now represented
by a major gallery, Lisson. Her auction record was set when Blanco y Verde (illustrated below) sold for
$2,655,000 at Phillips New York on November 15, 2018, exceeding the pre-sale estimate of $1,000,000
48
See: Nate Freeman, “The Rise and Fall of Mary Boone,” Artsy, https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-rise-fall-
mary-boone-revolutionary-art-dealer-going-prison-tax-fraud. See also: Scott Reyburn, “A ‘Small, Untrained Talent’ Be-
comes America’s Most Expensive Artist at Auction,” New York Times, May 26, 2017, https://www.ny-
times.com/2017/05/26/arts/basquiat-auction-untitled.html.
49
For example, North Yard Analytics, led by economist Daniel Altman, uses proprietary algorithms to forecast out-
comes for soccer and other professional sports players, based on past performances. See: https://www.northyardanalyt-
ics.com
The Dynamics of Valuing Emerging Art and Artists
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- $1,500,000. As a demonstration of the rapidity with which her market developed late in life, her
auction record just ten years ago was $30,000, about 1.1% of her current record.
Carmen Herrera, Blanco y Verde, 1966, acrylic on canvas, 40⅛ by 45¼ inches (101.9 by 114.9 cm). Sold
for $2,655,000 at Phillips New York on November 15, 2018.
As another example, one can look at the African-American painter Stanley Whitney (American, b.
1946), who also joined Lisson gallery fairly recently, and whose abstract paintings and drawings have
recently risen enormously in value. Whitney’s work was not traded at auction until April 2013, when
one of his signature colorful grid paintings, Light Rain (illustrated below), sold for approximately
€13,446 ($17,664) at Boetto (in Genoa, Italy), above the pre-sale estimate of €9,852 - €10,903 ($9,809
- $10,856). Less than six years later, on November 25, 2018, his current auction record was set when
Queen of Hearts (illustrated below), which is similar in size, style, and date, sold for 1,750,000 HKD
($223,665) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, above the pre-sale estimate of 800,000 1,200,000 HKD
($102,246 - $153,370).
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
(l.) Stanley Whitney, Light Rain, 2006, oil on canvas, 53.9 by 53.9 inches (137 by 137 cm). Sold for
€13,446 ($17,664) at Aste Boetto on April 16, 2013.
(r.) Stanley Whitney, Queen of Hearts, 2004, oil on linen, 54 by 60 inches (137.2 by 152.4 cm). Sold for
1,750,000 HKD ($223,665) at Phillips Hong Kong on November 25, 2018.
One can see similar significant retail gallery attention late in life for a number of other African-Amer-
ican artists, such as McArthur Binion (American, b. 1946),
50
Frank Bowling (American, b. 1934),
51
Ed
Clark (American, b. 1926),
52
and Fred Eversley (American, b. 1941).
53
50
Binion, represented by Lehmann Maupin Gallery, is known for allover patterned abstractions. His work had not been
traded at auction until 2018. His work DNA: Sepia: VIII (2016) sold for $106,250 at Sotheby’s New York against a pre-
sale estimate of $50,000 - $70,000. Binion was profiled, among others, in Hilarie M. Sheets’s recent New York Times arti-
cle “Discovered After 70, Find Success, Too, Has Its Price,” which stated that he “had been creating art almost com-
pletely under the radar for four decades.” (See: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/23/arts/design/black-artists-older-
success.html)
51
The current auction record for abstract painter Frank Bowling was set when Morning Light sold at Swann (New York)
for $161,000 against an estimate of $60,000 - $90,000. Before 2016, his auction high was $50,000, and before 2013, his
auction high was $7,800. Perhaps more astonishingly, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is reported to have sold a Bowling
painting for $500,000 at The Armory Show in March 2019.
52
The auction record for Clark, an abstract painter, is $198,000, set at Phillips New York on September 21, 2018 for an
untitled painting with a pre-sale estimate of $80,000-$120,000. Before 2018, his auction high was $30,000. Before 2015,
no work by Clark had sold for over $7,000 at auction.
53
Known for abstract translucent cast sculptures, Fred Eversley is represented by David Kordansky Gallery (Los Ange-
les). His auction record was set on February 17, 2019, when Untitled (Lens) sold for $281,250 at Lama (Van Nuys,
The Dynamics of Valuing Emerging Art and Artists
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In assessing value trends, one may look to various data, including auction sales (when they exist),
dealer prices (when they are communicated), and retail asking prices (with the caveat that they may
never be realized). One can also look at influencing factors such as the nature and extent of press
coverage, institutional affiliations, and variously quantified attention on social media. Assessment of
value of works of art by emerging artists may require analysis of a range of data, and one must be
aware that even those values ascribed following rigorous and complex analysis may be subject to sig-
nificant and rapid change in either direction. One must similarly be aware that when acting in an
advisory capacity, neither connoisseurship-based interpretation nor computationally-derived trend-
forecasting tools nor any combination of the two can reliably predict future markets for emerging
artists.
In consideration of these facts, it is advisable that values for works of emerging art should be reviewed
with great frequency. Although the market for each emerging artist is unique, and the purpose of a
valuation assignment may dictate specific terms, it is wise to consider that the review of values of
works of emerging art should ideally take place biannually, and no more infrequently than annually.
About the author
David Shapiro is a Senior Art Appraiser and Advisor with Victor Wiener Associates, LLC (New York).
He contributed to the valuation of the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) in connection
with the 2014 Detroit bankruptcy trial, as well as the art fraud case, United States v. Luke D. Brugnara
(2015). He is an Accredited Member of the Appraisers Association of America (AAA) and an Indi-
vidual Member of the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA).
California) against an estimate of $30,000 - $50,000. No work by Eversley had sold at auction until 2016. By comparison,
in May 2012, two works by Eversley, each only slightly smaller than the recent high sale, failed to clear low estimates of
$1,500 at Bonhams Los Angeles.
David Shapiro
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
Mr. Shapiro has lectured on art appraisal and the art market for Sotheby’s Institute of Art, the New
Art Dealers Alliance, The New Art Academy, and St. John’s University. He has been quoted in the
New York Times about art appraisals and IRS regulations for charitable donations. Mr. Shapiro is the
founding editor of the online contemporary art publication Museo and has published interviews with
artists including Vanessa Beecroft, Elizabeth Peyton, Shirin Neshat, and Jeff Wall, the latter in two
books, Jeff Wall: Selected Essays and Interviews (Museum of Modern Art, 2007) and The Education of a
Photographer (Allworth, 2006).
Contact:
+1 (917)763-8710
david@victorwienerassociates.com
Instagram: davidshapiro
Appraising Designer Furniture: The Challenge of Authenticity
and False Identities
By Soodie Beasley, ASA, AAA
"... the fear of being copied is often the characteristic of the meager imagination." ~ Elsie de Wolfe
opying something without consideration of the designer, the design, materials, and quality
is now pandemic. Appraisers need to be aware that unauthorized copies, misattributed
designs and outright forgeries of twentieth-century custom-made furniture are becoming
increasingly prevalent. This problem occurs across the price spectrum, across all market levels and
across all areas of twentieth-century design. By considering key furniture designs by, and misleading
attributions specifically to, Frances Elkins (1888-1953) and Karl Springer (1931-1991), appraisers can
better understand why and how dubious authenticity has developed into such a major, widespread
problem in designer furniture and why it is so hard to stop outright.
The twentieth-century design market has become one of the most dynamic and influential areas in
the international marketplace. In 2005, a glass-top spine-like trestle table with shuddering carnal un-
dertones designed by Carlo Mollino in 1948 sold at Christie's for $3.8 million, nearly twenty times
the high estimate. It broke a financial threshold and marked a new kind of market ripe for develop-
ment. One of Italy’s most influential mid-twentieth-century designers who was once marginalized in
design history and labeled “enigmatic,” “erotomaniac,” and “dangerous”
1
became the most sought
after. An original Mollino was now deemed worth any price, and the market kept its eyes peeled for
1
Beatriz Colomina, “Carlo Mollino (1905-1973),” Architectural Review, June 12, 2014.
C
Soodie Beasley
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
new, unique and fresh-to-the-market pieces.
Christies SALE 1532 - Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design
New York, 9 June 2005
Only a decade before, the cognoscenti of architects, designers, sellers, journalists, collectors, and critics
knew furniture design merited reverent study, but the masses remained indifferent to custom-made
pieces of modern design. Many were leery to bank on a designer’s name who was not well-recognized
and formally trained. Since the sale of Mollino’s table, the market for mass-produced mid-century
modern American furniture waned even as the market grew for limited and custom-made pieces.
These highly stylized pieces, with exotic shapes and profiles and materials that were once only available
through designers and show rooms, began to appear both at auction and through dealers generating
great interest and investment.
This area is difficult to navigate, however. When increased awareness created stronger demand, thus
diminishing supply, designer furniture was copied elsewhere. Since the turn of the twenty-first century,
more examples have been copied, parts redone, and others crafted only alluding to a whiff of a de-
signer’s style, than originals exist. There is no handbook, no list, and few experts with whom to confer.
Bespoke, one-offs, and custom-made pieces form a thick, dark and murky area for authenticity. A
majority of the original designers would change and adjust their designs as they were being executed,
even after working drawings were produced, if they were even used. Many of these designers didn’t
always sign their pieces or have their work always photographed. Many of their pieces were created
for a specific client for their specific room. Design tends to be fleeting. Over time, very few of these
Appraising Designer Furniture: The Challenge of Authenticity and False Identities
International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services
rooms remain intact. Their parts disassembled, walls painted over, carpets and drapes changed out,
the furniture then shifted elsewhere and passed through various hands. Any continuity is lost.
"Everything is permissible as long as it is fantastic." ~ Carlo Mollino
The result is that an idea of a design can become more desirable than the original design itself. Cop-
ies of an already copied chair can become an iconic design, and even offered at higher prices in the
market, than a designer’s original chair. Often a designer's name is most associated with a design that
was borrowed from the past, and the design itself has had more impact in style than historical con-
text. Frances Elkin's loop chair, for example, has held more power than the nearly two-hundred-
year-old chair it emulates. After all, today, referencing a design produced in the 1940s is a lot sexier
than referencing one from the eighteenth century.
Elkins was one of the most prominent grand-dame decorators of the first half of the twentieth century,
and certainly the most influential on the West Coast. She revolutionized interiors by combining tradi-
tional pieces with the avant-garde with the likes of Jean-Michel Frank and Alberto Giacometti. She
had an uncanny sense of how much of the past to mix with the present. Her genius lay in crafting an
environment that was much more comfortable tinged with a bit of rock ‘n’ roll. Elkin’s interiors were
edgier than de Wolfe’s light but stiff European style and further whetted than the reserved look of
Elsie Cobb Wilson. But Elkins, too, borrowed from the past and had eighteenth-century chairs copied
for two of her clients.
Elkins and her architect brother, David Adler, the renowned Chicago architect, were known to have
owned a copy of Percy MacQuoid and Ralph Edwards's four-volume Dictionary of English Furniture,
which was first published from 1904-1908. An image in this publication of a very similar George II
Soodie Beasley
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
japanned chair raises the question of attribution, although the design has been widely attributed to
her. This came to light in 2009,
2
yet this is one example of confusing authorship in the market today.
In 1934, Frances Elkins had two sets of four of these chairs copied with slight alterations and painted
a creamy-beige color for two different clients, Evelyn Marshall Field and Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Wheeler.
Sotheby’s offered one set at auction in April 2009.
3
Elkins wasn't the only one who copied the chair.
As an article in The Magazine Antiques notes, Frederick P. Victoria & Son, a business established in
1933 in New York City that sold antiques and high-quality reproductions, copied the chair for their
clients Robert and Marietta Tree (parents of the 1960s fashion model Penelope Tree, also famously
known as Twiggy). The Trees owned an eighteenth-century example from Ditchley Park in Oxford-
shire England, but they wanted a copy for their American home. Various forms of the loop chair have
been spotted in settings of Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s.
4
Stephen M. Salny's 2005 monograph on Elkins sparked a renewed interest in her work and particularly
this chair. When the preference for stark minimalist forms from 2000-2005 fell away and began to
grow into the fuller-forms of 2005-2010, variations of these loop chairs began to grace countless co-
vers of glossy interior magazines. These chairs were coated in primary and secondary glossy saturated
colors and available in all forms of quality and in all areas of the primary and secondary markets. The
trouble is, examples were and still are given the label of “Frances Elkins Loop Chair,” which leads any
potential buyer to believe Elkins had something to do with the procurement of these particular new
2
Shax Riegler,“The ‘It’ chair,” The Magazine Antiques, January 2009 vol. CLXXV, No. 1, pp. 146-151, fig. 4;
and “The ‘It’ Chair, a Postscript,” February 2009 editions. Also Emily Evans Eerdmans has thoroughly
and with great detail discussed this on her blog.
3
Mrs. Charles H. Gedge, the consignor, purchased the chairs from an estate sale of the Prentice estate in
1970-1971. (Mrs. Wheeler was remarried to Clarence Prentice.) Gedge had them painted bright yellow.
Then she had them lacquered black a few years later. Each pair of Elkins’ Loop chairs, lots 84 and 85, sold
for $5,938 (including buyer’s premium) at the April 9, 2009 Sotheby's New York sale. See also Penelope
Green, “In Chair Design, an Endless Loop,” New York Times, April 8, 2009.
4
See also Jennifer Boles’s February 8, 2010 Peak of Chic blog post. Coincidently, I had spied this chair
watching the same 1944 film noir movie Lara on Turner Classic Movies the weekend she had.
Appraising Designer Furniture: The Challenge of Authenticity and False Identities
International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services
chairs.
5
Further, many of the vintage examples appearing on the market lack any provenance and
newly copied chairs have an asking price far above the Elkins’ examples, which sold through Sotheby’s.
This image of the chair was so highly popularized that when the real deal, an actual Elkins loop chair,
became available, it fell with a quiet thud, barely reaching $3,000 per chair. The origin and historical
context of the design left to history.
Partial results of image search for Elkins Loop chair on Google
Buyers want something unusual, and sellers want to sell something no other dealer possess in their
inventory. Sellers focus on the romantic tale about a piece and not necessarily the real circumstances
surrounding its design, or how it was made. The market has been trending toward furniture that will
reflect who the owner is, something no one else can order directly out of a page out of a catalog.
Collectors want something to call their own exclusively.
During the Gilded Age of robber barons, the mighty rich who threw lavish soirées in their mish-mash
of Revivalstyle, marble-clad grand mansions that stretched down the Atlantic and dotted the bluffs
over large Western river towns, sent architects abroad to procure furniture, art, and bric-à-brac prying
5
I spoke at two conferences addressing the issue of this chair, "The Digital Revolution and the Democrati-
zation of Design," International Society of Appraisers Annual Conference, Kansas City, Missouri, April
27, 2014 and most recently, “Decorative Art Markets –Identification: Attributions and Misattributions in
the 20
th
-century Design Furniture Market,” American Society of Appraisers, Santa Fe, March 11, 2019.
Soodie Beasley
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
them from the hands of fallen European gentry because the look of old-world culture communicated,
the architects believed, sophistication. The Gilded-Age mansions’ vertically lofty, dark spaces were
layered with thick rugs, the long windows covered with heavy drapes, bushy ferns tucked in porcelain
Chinese-export globular vessels, and large, lumbering walnut pieces fresh off the conveyor belt were
placed squarely in rooms which the architects had covered, stuffed and tufted with dark jewel-toned
upholstery.
When the twentieth century rolled in, the ne plus ultra American decorator Elsie de Wolfe led the revolt
to throw the Victorian era out and paint everything white punctuating spaces with mirrors and tous les
Louis. She removed the clutter, the bibelots and the boulle replacing them with furniture of clean, simple
lines, painted the wood an array of cream tones and covered everything in chintz. Her aesthetic
slapped the face of the public, caught their attention and set the style for the first half of a century.
De Wolfe, along with a few other high-society decorator women, created the interior decoration métier
and left the rich dripping with good taste. These taste brokers pushed the vogue for custom-made
pieces.
6
Antique furniture was pickled, bleached, reworked, resized and remade just for the elite. After
all, custom furniture symbolized a separation of the upper crust from the masses.
One hundred years later, as the stripped-down rigor of minimalist contemporary interiors lost favor
to a new version of maximalist tradition, collectors again crave individualistic interiors. Today, collec-
tors neither eschew nor fully embrace any single period, nor devoting themselves to any single de-
signer; rather all want that one outré piece. They want a piece of a past designer's original personal
vision to punctuate a room like a dazzling diamond-studded brooch on a classic little black dress and
have their guests drop their jaws and whisper about the fortune that must have been paid on that
piece. They want their furniture to recall the once-exclusive affluent cultures of past years, which were
always as much about personalizing the material world as about mere appearances. Each of these past
6
Soodie Beasley, "Discovering a New Collecting Category: Furniture by Decorators," Journal of Advanced
Appraisal Studies, 2009 edition.
Appraising Designer Furniture: The Challenge of Authenticity and False Identities
International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services
designers reflected not only his or her own taste but broader prevailing trends of good taste. Owning
a piece of this luxury furniture now means conveying a sense of polished refinement.
Increasingly, long-forgotten designers’ furniture is pulled out of the homes of many a top-drawer
downsizer; sellers recognize some designs but others might simply assign a name to a piece if it merely
resembles a sought-after designer’s work. Many of these pieces debut on the secondary retail market.
What once seemed a scattered, anecdotal oddity has now become mainstream. Although buyers and
sellers have become more sophisticated about design, more once-forgotten designers’ names have
reemerged. But not every piece presented through a selling venue is vetted, and not every piece with
a designer’s name affixed to it is accurately tagged. And many designs of the great masters were copied
even by other past interior designers by changing a few dimensions and materials.
“I allow nothing to represent me that is not my best effort.” ~ Karl Springer
In the past fifteen or so years, the market has noted Karl Springer's exotic furniture. Springer, who
possessed a long list of society clientele, was a genius at capturing the aesthetic essence of the 1970s
and 1980s. Although he was inspired by the classical shapes of the art deco style, he translated them
into contemporary, custom-made furniture, light fixtures, and glass objects. He preferred bold yet
streamlined forms with a flash of fantasy. Were all of his individual furniture and accessories to be
placed together in one room, they would comprise a unique vision.
Since his death in 1991--and at least partly as a result of the concomitant rise of minimalism--Springer's
reputation waned. However, when several of his pieces started to surface at auction and were offered
through galleries in the early 2000s, his creations piqued interest.
7
Yet more and more of his work has
7
Soodie Beasley, "Fantasy Furniture by Designers: Marx, Mont, Duquette and Springer," Journal of Ad-
vanced Appraisal Studies, 2011 edition.
Soodie Beasley
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
been found as of late, a copious amount for a designer whose small and intimate team carefully and
painstakingly crafted each piece by hand for an exclusive client base.
Springer JMF Console Table
It is not easy to sleuth out if a Springer piece is a true one. Fakes and forgeries abound, more so in
the past ten years. A majority of his work left his studio and was to be placed into the homes of his
discerning clientele, unsigned. Signing custom-made furniture was considered tacky back
then. Friends, previous employees, and subcontractors of Springer’s -- during his lifetime and post-
humously -- have reproduced variations of Springer’s designs with slight alterations and materials.
Some even tack on Springer’s signature.
A quick search on 1stDibs or Decaso reveals a plethora of examples with the name of Karl Springer
attached. More transparent dealers will place in their title "in the manner of." Yet many others sell
examples with only a nod to Springer’s unique and seamless forms, nonetheless claiming each one is
by his hand. Although Springer was trained as a bookbinder, he was largely self-taught when it came
to furniture. He didn’t always draft his ideas on paper or preserve them in blueprints. If he made a
model, he might have tossed it away. After he created furniture items, he would constantly tweak
and adjust the design. Each new creation was unique unto itself.
How is an appraiser to know when culling comparables for valuation that the comparables claimed as
Springer's are authentic or even appropriate? Currently, no monograph on Springer’s work exists. No
Appraising Designer Furniture: The Challenge of Authenticity and False Identities
International Society of Appraisers Private Client Services
foundation or estate owns the rights to his designs. It appears that there are more fakes on the market
than genuine. Not everyone is familiar with his aesthetic and process; not every one of Springer's
clients kept change orders, specifications, and invoices sent by the showroom. Springer had a clear
vision and always was the master of quality control. His quest for high quality imbued his work with
a sense of scale and proportion. He paid close attention to detail and exact craftsmanship, a trait that
won him respect throughout the design industry.
Not all information listed on a dealer's posting is reliable, and a dealer’s hasty words can skip over
information that might otherwise reveal true authorship. As appraisers, how do we value something
we are uncertain of the accuracy, attribution, or authenticity? Once a sales record is added to a price
database, it is frozen forever. Even if attribution is later rectified, the database will likely not be not
updated.
Tom Langevin, who worked with Springer from 1977 until the designer’s death, has been promoting
and protecting the reputation and authenticity of the master’s work.
8
For a reasonable fee, he reviews
works and attributed works by Springer for appraisers, auction houses, dealers, and collectors cutting
through the muck of this barely navigatable area.
As another generation of decorators peddles taste today, the idea of designing a lifestyle has come to
dominate. Interior designers and decorators have contributed to connoisseurship of past design as
well as for luxury craft and handiwork. They have made untold contributions. In the process, they
informed clients, set trends, and transformed the market. The growing interest in interior design paved
the way for a greater appreciation for well designed, high-quality furniture. In an industry where crea-
tors are pressured with the Sisyphean task of churning out novelty and newness, many designers relied
too heavily on borrowing from designs of the past.
8
see www.karlspringerfurnitureauthentication.com. I am indebted to the generous time, effort and care
Tom Langevin has given me.
Soodie Beasley
Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
For designers coming up with new forms can be difficult. Kelly Wearstler, Jonathan Adler, Celerie
Kemble, Oscar de la Renta, and Thomas O’Brien, who helped pioneer the “new eclecticism,” have all
heavily borrowed from pieces by great masters such as Karl Springer, Aldo Tura, Gio Ponti, Luisa and
Ice Parisi, Tommi Parzinger, Dorothy Thorpe and Dorothy Schindler. A few of these designers believe
in offering classic pieces but by changing materials and adjusting dimensions they can cater to an
entirely new clientele. Fresher and more contemporized, they say, so they can call the design their
own.
Designers of mass-manufactured items now recreate the look of vintage, limited-edition, and custom-
made furniture by those who once bridged the gap between couture and design with superior skills and
a sensible, sharp aesthetic.
9
High-end vintage one-offs or limited edition examples cloaked in exotic
animal skins or crafted from unusual materials are being copied and credited under the name of an-
other designer. As a result, the name of lesser known designers are getting lost.
Many of these designers who have been borrowed from were not architects. Many did not have com-
plete projects documented, published, and evaluated. Furniture designed by starchitects, on the other
hand, can be referenced, but what about the lesser-known designers who designed and executed fur-
niture? Shouldn’t designers advocate for authenticity? They are educated about the importance of
original design intellectual property. Yet are some a source of the problem?
Today’s names of interior designers who design furniture have become well-known beyond the pages
of the glossy magazines. Their work is now permanently recorded in the publication of monographs
and disseminated through social media. Their work has greater accessibility online available in
9
Examples can be found within the past five to eight years issued by manufacturers such a Henredon and
Century Furniture.
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numerous editions in a variety of color choices. Is it their work that is better recorded which will be
remembered and sourced from in the future?
Many current collectors want a vintage piece by one of the greats, but only a limited amount of these
one-offs or limited editions were made. Many other buyers have become more receptive to a look
over something authentic. Great design depends not only on the ideas of designers but the dimensions
and materials they have chosen; the safety standards they have implemented. Their achievement was
to manifest their concept in a tangible form, communicate an essence and unique vision. When design
is freely copied without adherence to a designer's particular specifications, then attribution is not re-
quired to the creator. How will these altered, posthumous, and even current copied designs affect the
market for the creators' original designs?
Marketplace complicity is one of the greatest obstacles in remedying the proliferation of fakes and
forgeries. Knockoffs aren’t going to stop being made, and the people who buy them aren’t going to
stop wanting something that looks on trend. Due diligence to the provenance and the authorship of
items is vital to our industry. We are positioned to honor those designers who have been borrowed
from, copied, misattributed, and shoved aside.
***
Soodie Beasley, ASA, AAA holds both a BA and MA in Art History, a post-baccalaureate in Interior
Architecture and a Certificate of Appraisal Studies. She has been a professional appraiser since 2002.
She has lectured and taught college-level courses on art and design history for nearly ten years with a
focus on twentieth-century women artists and designers. She has previously contributed five articles
to the Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies. Beasley currently serves as the co-chair of the PR/Marketing
committee for ASA's Personal Property Committee.
www.soodiebeasley.com
Valuing Beauties: The Bijin In Japanese Prints
By Daphne Lange Rosenzweig, Ph.D, ISA CAPP
IJIN, or “beauties”, are a major subject in Japanese prints, paintings, and illustrated books.
Properly translated as “beautiful person”, the term “bijin” has come to signify “beautiful
women” and the term “bijin-ga”, illustrations of such women. This brief essay focuses on
bijin portrayals in Japanese Ukiyo-e prints of the Edo Period (1615-1868), and more specifically within
that category, on “geisha” prints and their valuation.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What types of women are represented in Japanese prints? To what professions or classes did they
belong? How are they depicted? How can different eras be distinguished by the demeanor and dress
of the women depicted? What are the determinants of assigned values for appraisals of bijin prints?
The Edo Period in brief:
The three major cities of the Edo Period were Osaka, the thriving commercial center, Kyoto, the
ancient imperial and cultural capital and Edo, said to be the largest city in the world at this time, and
the home residence of the shoguns, or governmental rulers of Japan. During the Edo period, the
Tokugawa family headed the shogunate, which organized the country utilizing the Confucian class
structure borrowed from China. Society was divided into four classes, with the shoguns, daimyo (pro-
vincial lords) and samurai at the top, followed by farmers, artisans and merchants in that order.
Though occupying the lowest social level, merchants were yet among the wealthiest members of so-
ciety and it was in part to drain off their energy and resources that the government established
B
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entertainment districts in major cities. It is also that audience for which Japanese prints were produced
by members of the artisan class.
The Edo authorities also adopted a Policy of Seclusion, closing Japan to all but a select few groups of
foreigners, and restricted travel within Japan. An isolated world and a relatively peaceful epoch, Edo
Japan saw the flourishing of interest in the dramatic arts and literature, in the national sport of sumo,
and in the diversions of sex and beauty, as exemplified in the arts of the Floating World.
Ukiyo-e in brief:
The term “Ukiyo” has two ways in which it can be written, one, the original, a Buddhist term signifying
the principle Buddhist concept that life is fleeting, life is suffering, that nothing lasts, so therefore the
desire to possess something is a futile, illusory exercise.
Written with different characters meaning “Floating World” (“uki” = floating, “yo” = world), the term
“Ukiyo” is also used to represent the hedonistic quality of Edo period culture in the pleasure quarters
and the theatre districts, as illustrated so vividly in Japanese prints. Both sets of characters pronounced
“Ukiyo” come from different avenues but share a common attitude, that life is ephemeral.
That attitude is expressed in the art of “Ukiyo-e” (“e” = paintings or prints), images drawn from the
Floating World of Edo Japan. Woodblock prints of the Ukiyo-e School were produced on a massive
scale for commercial purposes by private, and highly competitive, publishing houses. Utilizing a four-
step print production process (publisher, artist, carver, printer), prints were subject to government
inspection before publication, and if approved, a censor’s seal (or seals) would be added to the overall
print design (1) [ILLUS. 1].
Major Ukiyo-e types of Beauties, or Bijin:
Edo Period Japanese bijin designs feature a variety of female types, including:
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a. Upper class women: princesses, and Genji-style women more generally
These elite women were well-dressed, elegant, motionless and emotionless and literate, as in the
courtly lives and loves featured in the romances described in The Tale of Genji of 1053 (See below.)
b. Male actors in female roles: the onnagata role in kabuki theatre
Kabuki was the popular theatre of the Edo Period, with devoted audiences in the major cities de-
manding print images of their favorite actors and theatre settings. An adult-male only actor world
(after a series of trials and errors with female and young boy actors), the kabuki plays contained many
female roles. Male actors who specialized in onnagata or female roles were the quintessence of femi-
ninity and served as models for women in terms of appropriate appearances and demeanor. They wore
elaborate makeup and either wigs or a cloth piece on their forehead to cover the government-man-
dated shaved crown (www.kabuki21.com). “Yakusha-e”, prints of the world of kabuki (and other the-
atrical forms) became a primary subject in early Ukiyo-e, along with the popular “bijin-ga” or designs
with beauties [ILLUS. 2].
c. Deceitful women/hags/ghosts
This category includes tricksters such as fox women (transformative, untrustworthy beings,
often with their furry tails exposed beneath heavy robes); there are also supernatural beings such as
those created by the modern artist Fuyuko Matsui, and in famous 19
th
century Ukiyo-e print series by
Hokusai and Yoshitoshi. Females in this category can appear ugly, haggard, aged, disheveled, and
emotionally distraught.
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d. Loose women/morally bad women/non-conforming to standard
Completely lacking propriety, self restraint, with their hairdo awry, their robes slumping in
slovenly fashion, their breasts partially or completely exposed, women in this general category illustrate
the chain of moral descent from category a. but are not necessarily associated with the supernatural,
as in category c. Utamaro’s famous series “Five Shades of Ink in the Northern Quarter” (c. 1794-5)
begins with the woman illustrating the “best of” the bijin level (demure, hair and dress in place) to the
lowest of the low within that category (slumped and “letting it all hang out”), and his series “A Parent’s
Moralizing Spectacles” (1802-3) features “The Hussy, also known as “The Wanton”, a disheveled girl
drinking from a wine glass (Note: erotica prints are a separate issue, for another article.).
e. Mothers and children
An unobjectionable and popular genre within the general bijin category, such prints portray
the charming intimate interaction between beauties/mothers and happy children, usually within an
interior space. Such print designs, as those by Utamaro, were reportedly the inspiration for some of
Mary Cassatt’s prints a century or so later. That denizens of the Floating World brothels had children
as a result of their profession was an unhappy fact of life in the Green Houses.
f. “Geisha”
The literal translation of the term “geisha” is “gei” - arts/performance and “sha” person, a profes-
sional entertainer, an “arts person”.
This category includes both men and women singer-entertainers, not prostitutes. Talented, they could
come and go from their establishments to entertain clients for parties. They were not forced or allowed
to fraternize too intimately with male clients. A combination of talent and beauty was taken for
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Digital Journal of Advanced Appraisal Practice
granted. It is both this specific type and an expanded interpretation of this term which is explored in
many bijin prints, and in this essay.
Physical location of Beauties, or Bijin:
During the Edo period, as well as the theatrical districts, there were twenty-five government-spon-
sored, officially-licensed walled, moated and gated districts in major cities devoted to entertainment
venues, the ‘pleasure quarters”. Designed to appeal to the merchant class, the districts also attracted
actors, artisans and (unofficially) samurai. It is within these walls that the Green Houses, or licensed
brothels, flourished [ILLUS. 3].
In the city of Edo alone, the Yoshiwara (or, post a 1657 fire in the old Yoshiwara, the Shin Yoshiwara),
had c. 153 Green Houses within the estimated twenty-acre compound. By 1800, the densely populated
Yoshiwara district was home to more than 4,000 prostitutes as well as kitchen workers, maids and
other service people. The biggest brothels would have as many as 50 prostitutes (2). (To experience
strolling through a street scene in the licensed entertainment quarter, log on to https://scrolls.uchi-
cago.edu/scroll/visit-yoshiwara.)
Geisha Skills:
Women within the licensed pleasure quarters were highly stratified by education and their own per-
sonal attributes, and ranged from servants and girls-in-training through the levels of geisha and at the
top, the highest-ranking members, the “ideal” bijin who achieved the “tayu” (Kyoto) or the “oiran”
(Edo) level.
A well-trained geisha would ideally possess the following attributes:
a. exhibit an acceptable degree of showmanship, with the ability to skillfully and elegantly perform
traditional dances and songs and play an instrument for clients [ILLUS. 4 and 5];
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b. evidence some degree of literary talent, including calligraphy skills, composing or reciting verse or
matching poetry lines with clients;
c. perform the standard traditional womanly “high culture” pursuits of flower arranging, kimono and
obi pattern matching, makeup application, genteel conversation, serving beverages with the right ges-
tures; and
d. at all times assume appropriate demeanor, posture, and etiquette.
It takes years of training by the “mother” of the Green House and possibly outside tutors to learn
how to perform successfully at a high level. A beauty exhibiting many of these talents did not have to
take many clients, often just one, and would be allowed to meet noblemen clients. These “tayu” or
“oiran” were called “castle razers” because they cost the client so much money that he might have to
pawn a castle! Often after their terms of contract were completed, they would marry their client.
Terminology gets murky here in English (though the ranking is clear in Japanese); often these upper
level skilled and beautiful women are called in English “courtesans” and those well-trained but perhaps
with fewer talents or lesser beauty “geisha”. In the West, the term “geisha” has come to be used
specifically for women, and is defined in dictionaries as “prostitute”; this is misleading, as although
sexual attractiveness is assumed, there are many levels encompassed by the general term “geisha” (see
below).
Having signed contracts (usually of ten years’ duration) with the parent whose daughter would be
entering into this atmosphere at age c. 7-8, the Green House management educated the girls up to the
limits of their ability. They were ranked, from servants through the maiko (apprentice) level through
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the geisha rank and for a select few, the tayu or oiran rank (YouTube, “Maiko Kyoto”, “Edo Won-
derland Oiran Parade”).
Prints often depict maiko (“dance child”). Maiko, promising children who begin their serious training
at ages c. 11-12 were assigned to be assistants to geisha, and would accompany them to events to
observe behaviors and skills appropriate for the tea houses or parties. The maiko were supplied with
room, board, clothes, training, all within the Green House from the “mother” or with tutors of specific
skills. The training costs ultimately had to be repaid. When considered appropriately talented, they
were formally promoted to geisha rank. In prints maiko can be discerned by their seasonally-appro-
priate floral hair ornaments, and they also might appear smaller than a geisha and paired up with
another maiko. Many “group” bijin prints illustrate the leading woman of a Green House presented
on a dominant physical scale and perched on her especially high “geta” (sandals), the smaller scale
maiko, and smaller yet, servants, and when on their special parades through the street, a rugged mus-
cled hairy male body guard often is included.
Print renderings of Bijin:
There are certain commonalities within the general category of bijin, no matter the date of the print.
a. hierarchy of scale
The dominant female will be the largest or tallest within a group rendering of females, gorgeously
dressed in multiple robes and if the design in a “bijin” subject print depicts a high-ranking female, her
assigned name will accompany the image and her robes will bear her particular identity crest (although
the various early nineteenth century sumptuary reform regulations attempted to eliminate that prac-
tice).
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From 1655 on, a twice-yearly guidebook (“saiken”) naming and ranking each inhabitant of every
Green House was published, together with layout of the districts. Often the prime beauties of each
of the three major cities (Edo, Kyoto, Osaka) were combined into one print, although such together-
ness was physically unlikely in real life. If a print depicts a grouping of three females all of the same
size and all looking appropriately behaved and equally well-dressed, then the subject may be the yearly
or bi-yearly ranking of the top beauties in the licensed entertainment quarters of Kyoto, Osaka and
Edo (see below). The term “Ukiyo” plaintively suggests the fleeting fame of these top beauties.
b. demeanor and appearance
So what is “beauty” and how can it be expressed in art? In the West, the female nude, with its sinuous
curves and ripeness of breast and belly becomes an ideal. In Japan (and apart from erotica), a more
modest approach prevails (though the experienced eye can discern suggestive content, embedded in
demeanor and clothing designs). Designed by male artists for male audiences, the ideal beauty is
depicted as compliant, non-threatening, lacking shoulders, bones or muscles. Except in erotica, the
body will be barely exposed, and the beauty will possess a well-tended coiffure and be elegantly
dressed. Depending on the artist the beauty can be shown in an “okubi-e (large head/bust portrait)
view or full-length, perhaps with one foot partially shown, or a little out-of- proportion hand grasping
her robe of holding an umbrella, and perhaps the nape of the neck (the erogenous zone) exposed. The
beauties’ pose and demeanor, together with their garment designs reveal not only their status but also
the period of the print. Their faces are uniformly emotionless and lack muscle refinement or defining
personal quirks. They are often pear-shaped, even jowly, a facial style drawn from 8
th
century Tang
Dynasty China, one thousand years before! The lead-whitened faces uniformly feature a small single-
stroke hook nose, important eyebrows, almond-shaped eyes and tiny little lips. One lip may be a dif-
ferent color than the other, and exposed teeth may be blackened, an old custom borrowed from the
aristocratic beauties of the Tale of Genji era of the 11
th
and 12
th
centuries of Japan. In essence, the
17
th
-19
th
c. bijin of the licensed entertainment quarters, occupying the lowest societal level, emulate
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the aristocratic ladies of five hundred years before (www.taleofgenji.org; www.kuniyoshiproject.com,
“Prince Genji” and “Women”; www.ogatagekko.net, “Tales of Genji”). [ILLUS. 6 and 7].
These neutral beauties are usually positioned so that their heads are in three-quarters view, the hook
nose seen from the side. Because of the inherent fragility of the hairline hairs and the nose, these
sections of the wood block tend to wear out and may be re-plugged or re-cut to refresh the lines; worn
or broken lines are signs that the prints are not from the initial pulls and are later pulls, or from poorly
carved later editions using new blocks (See below, on valuing such prints).
If the beauties are stately, fully in command of the space they occupy, enveloped in an elaborate robe
with large-scale seasonally-related designs, slightly inclining their heads and with their forms assuming
an S-curve, they probably are prints produced in the early to mid 1700’s. Their proportions with long
torsos and short legs, are idealizations (https://ukiyo-e.org, “Early Ukiyo-e”). The 1760’s-70s saw the
influence of the famed print designer Harunobu (1724 1770), whose willow-wisp sweet-young-thing
charming girls are buffeted by winds, or relax on verandas with garden views, or play music or write a
poem. Their thin forms seem to barely exist, serving as a sinuous clothes rack to hold up their robes
rather than a flesh and blood object of desire (www.viewingjapaneseprints.net, “Suzuki Harunobu”).
This fragile form disappears with the advent of the great careers of Utamaro and Sharaku at the end
of the 18
th
century. Sharaku (active 1794 1795), whose known print design career only spanned 1794-
95, was an acute analyst of kabuki actor’s physiognomy (“nigao”, or likeness). Among his best okubi-
e (large head) print designs are those of the onnagata, male actors specializing in female roles. The
actors, who were known personalities (www.kabuki21.com) are not “sweet young things” but robust
men, some clearly in their 60’s but still playing young women. What enables them to be distinguished
from females is either the elaborate wigs or a piece of cloth strategically placed over the forehead, to
hide the shaved head (a government requirement for actors) [as in ILLUS. 2], or a specifically unlady-
like distinguishing feature such as a prominent nose.
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Sharaku’s contemporary, the famed and influential Utamaro (1753 – 1806) was well-trained in a tradi-
tional master print designer’s workshop and possessed the ability to produce designs of many subjects
as needed by a book or print publisher. He created a female style, with a more realistically proportioned
body type than earlier in the century and in direct contrast to Harunobu’s fragile young things, Uta-
maro’s women are robust, buxom, not shy, and range thematically from bad girls with bad posture,
disheveled hairlines and breast exposure to high-ranking beauties of the entertainment quarters, con-
fident, with appropriately refined posture, and decidedly attractive appearance, their hairlines immac-
ulate, clothes decorously arranged and gorgeously patterned (https://ukiyo-e.org, “Toshusai Sharaku”
and “Kitagawa Utamaro”). He also excelled in his portrayal of tragic lovers, a popular theme in theatre
and literature, in which a star-crossed couple are illustrated as joined in sorrow, closely-knit as they
journey together emotionally, physically or spiritually, their emotions expressed not through facial
expressions (which are the standard neutral beauty/handsome type) but through their physical bond,
including their scarf gestures, and other devices (www.viewingjapaneseprints.net, “Tragic Lovers (Kit-
agawa Utamaro)”).
Apart from the routine required pre-publication governmental censorship of proposed prints designs,
highly restrictive shogunal reform movements beginning in the early 19
th
century and continuing into
the 1830’s and early 1840’s imposed new rules on the depiction of beauties (and actors) because the
government found that it made those portrayed too conspicuous and alluring, a detriment to public
morality. Multi-block prints, and prints naming specific beauties and actors were constrained (3).
From this era on in the 19
th
century, prints of women often depicted them as more populist in class,
and ill-favored in appearance, looking harassed, hunched over, with multitudinous small designs on
their layers of robes. They lack the confidence of the stately gliding, self-confident women of the
earlier 18
th
century, the charming boneless beauties of mid-century or the fully-realized beauties of the
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100
end of the century. Their heads shrink in size in comparison to their busily-detailed robes and their
mouths appear to grimace (www.yoshitoshi.net, “32 Aspects of Women”).
Value structure of Bijin-ga:
In most particulars, the numerous considerations which enter into assigning values to Japanese Edo
Period Ukiyo-e prints as a whole or to bijin prints specifically are not that different from those used
to value prints of other periods and cultures, though several criteria assume more importance in bijin
print valuation. Under “Frequently Asked Questions about Japanese Prints”, from the site www.view-
ingjapaneseprints.net, the section “What is my print worth?” is useful to summarize the points to
consider; those who have taken this author’s The Appraisal of Japanese Prints” two-day seminar
presented for ISA (as well as other sources) will be familiar with the points made on this site. Some
of them are self-evident and relate to questions brought up in any print appraisal, but several require
more specific attention as they relate to valuing Japanese prints and specifically prints of beauties.
Briefly summarized, the “What is my print worth” headings include:
a. artist;
b. design or subject;
c. originals and reproductions;
d. condition;
e. rarity;
f. fashion or current trends;
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101
g. financial markets;
h. scholarship;
i. exhibitions or publications;
j. provenance;
k. local or specialized interest;
l. venue or source;
m. “new to the market”
Certainly all these categories can affect print valuation. Indeed, a., b., e., h., i., j., k., l. and m. from
this list are all applicable to prints as well as paintings from many schools and cultures and would
automatically be observed and documented where possible. C and d., f.. and g. and j. with l., demand
more attention here, to point out aspects strongly affecting appraisal of Japanese prints, and more
specifically bijin-ga. But first:
a. Artist:
Is the artist identified, well-known, admired? Is the signature/authorship believable? These and other
concerns are questions asked of printings and prints worldwide so the usual strictures and identifica-
tions arise (“by the artist”, “attributed to the artist”, “manner of the artist”, etc.). If two prints are of
roughly equivalent design and quality of print materials, will one identified as being by a famous artist
be more valuable than one by a second or third tier artist? Yes. This is to be expected.
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102
b. and k. Design, subject, local or specialized interest:
To state what is quite obvious, in bijin-ga, beauties have to be beautiful, as defined above. Prints of
beauties, even mediocre designs, tend overall to be more popular in the Ukiyo-e marketplace than
prints depicting harrowing scenes, references to historical events (with some exceptions as the famous
“47 Ronin” tale), or other material that in any way is demanding or appalling - though those themes
have their own collecting audience. Prints of “bad girls”, female ghosts, and bondage designs have
their own collecting coteries, as do the often beautifully executed but unsigned erotic print designs by
famous artists (such as Utamaro). Beauties, bijin, the standard lovely lady engaged in appropriate
activities, can be appreciated on a superficial level; apart from those who can read accompanying
poetry, the expressionless but lovely bijin-ga are more a pleasant artistic topic rather than an intellec-
tual exercise for a viewer.
e., h., and i. Rarity, scholarship, exhibitions or publications:
Rarity is naturally of interest, especially if combined with moderate or ideally, superior, condition.
How does one know when a design (or artist) is rare? Consult, research.
Recent publications devoted to particular Ukiyo-e artists or prints and the general Ukiyo environment
can help broaden appreciation or heretofore neglected aspects of Japanese prints. Two Japanese art
society magazines, Andon and Impressions, feature scholarly articles on aspects of Japanese prints
and collectors. Hotei and Brill publishers sponsor substantial books regarding prints including print
series. Modern scholarship can chang