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  • Writer's pictureVan Weyenbergh Fine Art

Start a fine art collection, do and don't do, how to start. Chapter 1

Updated: Jul 2, 2018

A Fine art expert should be able to help somebody to build a fine art collection. BUT: - does he has the experience of buying - does he has the experience of auctions and the auction after sales..very common all over the world - does he has the experience necessary to discern the quality - does he has the experience to guess what will be sold at higher prices

I can go on and go on for pages. A good fine art expert needs a lot experience, in multiple domains.

Buying fine art requires experience, more or less depending from who you are buying. If you buy from a gallery exhibiting a painter named X - he needs the skills to bring the prices down from the asked prices, since the sales prices of an item in a gallery reflects usually 50% of it for the gallery and 50 % of it for the artist. If you buy from an auction, you need to have the best relationship with the auction house to know the provenance, the hidden problems with an artwork, etc and this info will be given to known experts to the auction house, or to experts with a verifiable CV etc If you buy from a collector, the expert needs to know if the seller is aware of the real value of an item, if this is not a chapel ( a house or condo where some merchants displaying their impossible to sell merchandise), how to act with a seller who is not willing to let go his item below his reserve price, In this first chapter, we immediately understand that an expert needs to have field experience.

Experience with auction houses... An auction house wants to sell your art, no matter what. To do so they want the as lowest reserve price possible, this is negotiable and of course experience will help to obtain the highest possible reserve price. The auction houses taking minimum 25 % from the sales prices from the seller and 25 % from the buyer, yes that's correct 50 % !!! For high value paintings the % are decreasing but still, no wonder that you have so many auction houses in Good shape or Bad shape as I will explain later. If you have a high end value painting ( more than 10 M $ ) you can negotiate the sellers premium with an auction house. Also with art value above the 1 M $ you can ask to receive an advance on sales. All this will happen easily if you deal with an experienced art expert. You have good and bad auction houses ! bad auction houses are the ones who can't pay to the seller for the sold item... Weird? yes it's weird since they have only their functioning money to invest in a sale...publicity, catalogues etc .. And it happens more than what we think. I personally had to deal with an auction from the East coast a couple years ago, I don't want to mention their name since they are starting all over recently after having been one of the oldest auction houses in the US. I was a regular buyer and seller at their auction house, until this auction where I had for 150K $ items sold and could not receive my money... Of course sometimes you have bad customers, who are not paying their debt to the auction house and it becomes very difficult for an auction house to pay the seller since they didn't receive their money. This happens, but it's often an internal problem to the auction house. Too high reserve prices, too much communication publicity, not enough quality merchandise etc. I did wait almost 7 months to be paid but I was finally paid.. When you have experienced it you know what to do before you buy or sell in an auction house. You need to make your home work. Recently an auction house in Belgium, 2 month before Xmas, made a lot publicity, news articles in the newspapers, announcing a prestige end of year sale, and they were still accepting high value consignments. This auction house existed exactly 1 year, and attracted a lot of buyers and sellers, also online. Xmas auction was an enormous success with exceptional furniture, fine art, books, jewelry etc. The auction house announced that the payments to the sellers will occur after new year 2014. After new year the auction house had disappeared , all items were gone since the buyers came to pick up their items and paid the auction house, but money, auctioneer, employees, desks, room everything was empty!  I learned that this auctioneer did the same thing a couple times at the 4 corners in France. We had the same sad story a couple years ago in Scottsdale AZ ... one day all gone. The reputation of an auction house has to be verified, even if this is one of the oldest auction house in the country.. always make your home work, and who better than a fine art expert can do this.

To be continued.

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