Is there a practical guide to valuing art?

After many years of study, research and life experience, I have concluded that there is no practical guide to assigning value to any given piece of artwork because there is no absolute value that can be assigned to a work of art. Unlike math and science, there are no absolute conclusions when it comes to valuing art. Art is subjective.

What does that mean for an art appraiser, historian and curator? What does that mean for collectors? What does that mean for artists? Dealers? The IRS? Museums? Public Art? Educators? What that means to me is the more I know, the more I know that I don’t know. 

I understand that my purpose, the reason people hire me, is to provide the public with an opinion of value based on a series of real and hypothetical facts, arrive at a conclusion about the value and somehow be able to justify that value. The question I am asked most often is “How do you know what something is worth?” 

In monetary terms, I can dismiss this question quite easily by saying that it is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. True enough. Often times, I am called to judge, value, contextualize, interpret, and appraise a work of art based primarily on hypothetical data, subjective and objective critical analysis, the opinions of others before me as well as those of my contemporaries, fluctuations in the market, available media and publications, and whatever means needed to justify my opinion. 

I suppose the most practical advice I can give on valuing art is to investigate and interpret all of the information available about a work of art. Look at it from every facet and dimension.

Art is not one dimensional and should not be valued from a single perspective. Art is multifaceted with many, many values that are determined by the purpose for which it is being evaluated and the interpretation of facts, both real and hypothetical. 

More on this later…

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One thought on “Is there a practical guide to valuing art?

  1. “the more I know, the more I know that I don’t know.” — this is definitely true! If there is anything I have learned over the past four years of non stop reading, studying and traveling is that the more I learn the more I find out there is so much I don’t know about. This in turn encourages me to continue this learning process.

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