The Wall Street Journal recently stated that commodities such as art, antiques and other tangibles account for an average of 17% of high net worth individuals' assets. Yet, according to most estate attorneys, death, divorce and debt are the only times most people have their collections appraised. By then, it’s usually too late to be proactive in managing the collection.
So, why don’t collectors have their collections reviewed more frequently? There are several reasons, the most common being that most collectors probably hang the art on their walls to enjoy, and never think about it as an asset ... until something happens.
As an art management and brokerage firm assisting individuals, corporations and municipalities develop and manage their art portfolios, we use extensive research, market analysis and historical performance to help us to identify future trends and opportunities. We also work extensively with certified appraisers of fine art and have identified some key elements to consider in valuing art. For example, a key consideration is whether media reports reflect your collection. Much is written about the state of the art market at any given moment, but the “broad view” is far narrower than we are led to believe. Before applying the hypotheses you read about to your collection, one must examine the basis of evidence used in the writer’s analysis.
If you are using auction records, consider what percentage they are of all sales values. Authors often base their analysis of current trends on auction records for internationally recognized artists selling for over $1,000,000, but these, according to The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) Art Market Report, compiled by Dr. Clare McAndrew of Arts Economics and excerpted in Artnews, comprised less than 1% of all artworks sold, or around 800 artists worldwide in 2014. Odds are that your artwork falls into the remaining 99 percent, so accurately determining values for it may be more challenging. And possibly more rewarding … “midrange” art can provide a greater reward percentage than premier works. For example, above is a painting by Alexandre Hogue, an internationally acclaimed artist in the 1930s. Hogue’s quality is considered on par with other great regionalist painters such as Thomas Hart Benton and George Ault. However, Hogue’s values are lower than these other artists, so collectors are eager to acquire his works at comparatively “inexpensive” prices.
Even when viewed more broadly, using auction records alone can skew conclusions dramatically. In 2015, according to the TEFAF Report, the global art market achieved total sales of $63.8 billion, with sales made on the auction house floor accounting for 47% of total value generated in the art market that year. All other sales—private sales conducted by auction houses, as well as sales by galleries and dealers—made up the remaining 53%. So, while auction houses have done an excellent job of bringing the art world into the public light, enhancing interest in and values of art worldwide, and engaging new collectors in the process, these records represent less than half of all art sales in 2015. To truly get an idea of what your art is worth, your appraisals should include additional research into comparables from private sales through galleries.
People also forget the interaction required between dealers and auctions to make an artist valuable. No artist becomes famous without being represented by a dealer. The dealer promotes the artist through exhibitions, catalogs and private placement, elevating the artist’s prices as demand for the work increases. The works of art reach a value that gains the attention of an auction house. The auction house includes the artist’s work in an auction and promotes the artist to a larger audience, elevating recognition, demand and prices for the artist’s work. The gallery elevates the artist, the auction follows suit. This relationship between galleries and auctions is important to everyone, especially the artist and collector. So determining the value of an artwork from both galleries and auctions is vital to the accuracy of the appraisal.
If an artist has an association with a particular region of the country—perhaps he or she went to school or taught there—demand for their work is often much higher there. For example, a 1936 painting by Texas artist Everett Spruce (above) sold in 2014 for more than $250,000. Two smaller 1930s works have since sold in the same $200,000 price range, and we have a waiting list to purchase other works from that period. The current auction record for Everett Spruce is $92,000.
Alexandre Hogue also spent several years teaching in Texas, so he is especially popular with Texas collectors. Road to Rhome is the only one of 11 Dust Bowl paintings by Hogue that is not in a museum. The highest public auction record for Hogue is $65,000. We acquired Road to Rhome on behalf of a client for around $600,000, approximately 10 times auction record, and the painting was appraised at $900,000 to $1,100,000. This is due to several factors, all of which are important to every collector: first, his relationship to Texas and the South make him desirable in that region; all the auction records available are for minor Alexandre Hogue artworks and fail to reflect values for his exceptional works of art and, as mentioned above, he is presently considered a mid-range artist but of very high quality.
Seymour Fogel is an excellent example of a prominent artist who was rediscovered. In the early 1930s, Fogel began his work as a professional artist by working with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo on numerous mural projects, including the controversial Man in the Crossroads mural at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Soon after, Fogel’s own career advanced rapidly. Numerous exhibitions and WPA commissions established him as a member of the New York art community, where he worked with such notables as Phillip Guston, Adolph Dehn and Yasuo Kuniyoshi, among others. Fogel then accepted a position with the Art Department at the University of Texas in 1946, remaining there until 1957 and returning to New York in 1960 to pursue his artistic vision.
After his return to New York, Fogel’s work was again embraced by the art community, with repeated exhibitions in New York at The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum, and in Washington, D.C., at the Corcoran Gallery, the Carnegie Institute and others. He continued to work until his death in 1984.
About five years ago, we began researching him and were so impressed by his history and accomplishments—in his heyday, he was also elected to the International Fine Arts Council, the International Institute of Arts & Letters and the Architectural League of New York—that we decided to “re-present” Fogel to the art world. Now his work is in prominent museums and collections across United States and values for his paintings are 10 to 20 times higher than a decade ago.
Think back five, 10 and 15 years. Our world is changing more rapidly than at any previous time in history. The economy; politics; your art collection. Art speculators of the early 2000s turned to more established artists after 2008. "Traditional" furniture then, is just “brown” furniture now.
The old adage “people don’t want what their parents had, they want what their grandparents had” is true in art as well. Below is our “generational curve summary.” Please note that this is a summary of our observations and is not a definitive analysis.
Currently, Generation X (born 1965-1979), followed by the Millennials (born 1980-2000), are inheriting wealth and actively building collections of their own taste. They often shun the art they grew up with, instead opting for the art of their grandparents' generation.
Conversely, the first generations to broadly collect art, the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) and early Baby Boomers (born 1943-1964) are retiring or passing. Some artists from their collecting years, primarily the 1960s-1990s, have become very valuable, or are trending toward increasing in value, depending on the interests of the Gen X and Millennials. Unfortunately, far more are decreasing in value as time marches on.
Given the information above, I think you can see why we advise clients to update their art appraisals about every five years. You receive financial “appraisals” of your investments every month in the form of brokerage statements, so why would you ignore a potentially large asset like art and collectibles? You probably invested more time, personally, choosing the items in your collection than the items in your financial portfolio, so think of periodic appraisals as a financial checkup for your art and collectibles.
Also be sure to update your records so you can review values from purchase to present, and then take a poll of the “next gen” to see what their opinion is. Your kids, if old enough, are an excellent source.