Archive for the ‘Appraisal/Auctions’ Category

Swann Galleries’ Early Printed Books Auction

Central Asian travel books exceeded expectations at Swann Galleries’ Spring Early Printed Books Auction.


Sir Marc Aurel Stein, Serindia: Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China, first edition, Oxford, 1921. Sold April 12, 2016 for $18,750. (Pre-sale estimate $6,000 to $9,000).

New interest in the adventures of the Silk Road during the late 19th and early 20th century sparked these extraordinary prices.  I am aware that Sir Aurel Stein also removed a collection of books and manuscripts from the famous Dunhuang caves……..  And some of us are still waiting to go…..especially to the Taklamakan desert — if only briefly!


Elisabeth and Natasha


Yes there is some.
The spotlight has very long now been on very hot and very much in demand Chinese art resulting in sometimes exorbitant prices and sometimes these sales are not paid for.  But this is not what I want to talk about.
Lark Mason ( the Chinese art and antiques expert, independent curator, appraiser, consultant, educator and author and founder and president of iGavel Auctions and Chairman of Asia Week New York said something recently that resonated with me:
There are several areas of  fine, tribal and folk Asian art that can be purchased for under $ 5,000. He pointed to several areas:  Meiji period (1868-1912), (and later Japanese art I might add) such as bronze, ceramic and lacquer objects. I can think of several that recently sold at auction in the $ 1,200 to $ 5,000 range. Depending on your budget there are  also Japanese screens, Japanese contemporary ceramics, 19th century Japanese paintings all available in a reasonable price range.
Mr. Mason also mentioned art from Southeast Asia Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka (and Laos and Indonesia I might add). SEA art is my specialty and I follow it closely. Many pieces especially from Cambodia can be quite expensive in comparison with the neighboring countries.
And there are Japanese woodblock prints. I just read a press release by Scholten Japanese Art participating in Asia Week with the exhibition: Ukiyo-e Tales: Stories from the Floating World. Most of you are familiar with color woodblock prints  and many were made in huge quantities, are still available in large quantities or at least later renditions thereof. Authentic prints, perhaps from the 18th and early 19th century, from a specific genre (kabuki actors, beautiful woman, warriors, erotica, etc), by an artist who did not produce so many prints and might be less known can be a good find and a little more expensive but still very reasonable for such a work of art. Scholten offers a very fine print by Eisen dated ca. 1830 for $ 3,800.
A dealer whose Japanese prints I have followed for a long time – – offers several 20th century ukiyo-e prints between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000 and I wish I would have purchased them when these artists were in the $ 2,000 range and it was not that long ago.  Check them out and his more recent prints.
Martha Sutherland of  M. Sutherland mentions Chinese album leaf paintings by well known artists  to be quite affordable, under $ 5,000, whereas larger  works  by the same artists would be quite expensive.
I must not forget India having recently appraised some Chola pieces I am aware of the  high price tag but there are lesser known periods of Indian art, such as Nayak period as pointed out by Sanjay Kapoor of Kapoor Galleries.
So we should all have fun and  focus on one reasonably priced niche of Asian art it is quite doable! Very dangerous for me who has accumulated more than I can handle.
Elisabeth and Natasha


This is a link to a report by  The Financial Times/Appraisers Workshops about a group  of wealthy collectors  from Europe, the Middle East  and Asia who have formed their own museum association to promote their museums and share experiences.   The time has come !
Categories: Appraisal/Auctions


October 29, 2013 Leave a comment


As an appraiser some of us get involved in donation appraisals, known as a charitable contribution appraisals and file IRS Form 8283.
To the general public the Art Advisory Panel is little known but among us appraisers- at least those who work on donation appraisals – it is an invaluable resource, especially when appraising very high dollar pieces. The same Art Advisory panel considers the merits of estate appraisal values. Not too long ago I received a call from a maker, retailer and wholesaler of Japanese drums who had donated several drums to orchestras. I contacted the panel for assistance. The drums the client sold – and he showed me receipts – were in the $10,000 to $ 50,000 range. What would be allowed as a donation value? Only the material used and his labor – nothing else.

I am forwarding verbatim an article from the Wall Street Journal that explains the mystery around the Art Advisory Panel.




The New York Times paper from May 23rd featured a center-fold advertisement of the China Daily China Watch section, in which China’s art market is highlighted.

As appraisers and dealers we all lament the uneven prices brought on by Chinese buyers — in the realm of Chinese antique and contemporary art. But things are not always what they seem to be. Last year, according to this article, the Chinese art market, usually evaluated by auction results, fell 40 percent in annual sales.
An additional issue for the uneven sales results — especially for the contemporary Chinese art market — is the absence of any criteria for gaging and appraising contemporary art. This makes the art work difficult to price, buy, collect and invest in. Buyers be mindful, this is riskier than in other markets.
The article observes, that although Chinese buyers have prominently participated at all trade levels, local and foreign art galleries have a tough time in China for a number of reasons — aggressive Chinese auction houses, and a loose and often ineffective system of artist representation.
Several local and foreign galleries have shut down in Beijing during the last year. Of the 1560 galleries in China, 742 are located in Beijing — fewer than 7% were able to make ends meet in 2012. In the Western art market, galleries play a prominent role, but in China, galleries sell less than half of the artwork that auction houses sell.
CHINA GUARDIAN AUCTION, BEIJING was highlighted. At their 2013 spring auction a total of $ 418 million (2.57 billion yuan) was realized; this includes in order of dollar values: sales of traditional paintings, oil paintings, sculptural pieces, porcelain and furniture, and jade and jewelry. Top lots included calligraphy and white jade.
There is no fear that the Chinese market will not continue to expand, as there are so many young and new people, a whole new generation, coming to the market.  People still have money but there is perhaps some uncertainty about, and lower confidence in a slower economy.
Photo from Galerie Urs Meile,  Chen Hui, Portrait Number 1. (I selected this - reminds me of  Giuseppe Arcimboldo)
Elisabeth and Natasha


February 7, 2013 Leave a comment
The Appraiser Workshop – AW
recently published the following on their blog.


Published by Todd W. Sigety, ISA  CAPP, and Jane C.  Brennom,  ISA ASA
Their blog dated January 25, 2013 explained the importance of having an up-to-date value assessment by a qualified professional appraiser for insurance and damage appraisals. Reference was made to a Canadian fine art underwriter  (Mr. Anton Antonov of Fine Art Underwriter for XL Group in Toronto) who stressed the importance of obtaining fair market value for:
Establishing equitable distribution of property.
Determining an art donor’s income tax deduction if art is given as a charitable donation.
Proving the value of an object in anticipation of a potential sale to determine  the value of an object under consideration for purchase.
Verifying preparation of estate tax returns, assisting in estate planning or aiding in the distribution of assets.
Helping with asset management, loan collateral and related financial and legal matters that can be tied to an art collection.
Mr. Antonov recommends hiring an appraiser who is certified by a nationally recognized organization and to ask the following questions to find the right appraiser:
What are your qualifications/credentials?
What is your experience with regard to the objects to be appraised?
Do you have a vested interest in the items to be appraised?
What will you deliver at the end of the appraisal process?
I hope this helps to understand what  services an appraiser could render.
Elisabeth (ISA CAPP, ASA) and Natasha

Art Market Regulations

February 7, 2013 Leave a comment

I was going to write a blog about the 28 January  NYT article  concerning more regulations for the art market but APPRAISER WORKSHOPS got ahead of me. Here is what Todd Sigety and Jane Brennom  posted on their Blog  APPRAISER WORKSHOPS on January 28th.  Both Jane and Todd are ISA CAPP  (International Society of Appraisers Certified Appraiser of Personal Property). Jane ( is based in Houston and Todd ( in Alexandria, Virginia.


Appraiser Workshops: Should There be More Art Market Regulations 

Should There be More Art Market Regulations

Posted: 28 Jan 2013 11:03 AM PST

The NY Times ran an article on the growing size of art sales and the need for new laws to regulate the industry in New York.  Many outsiders look at auctions and galleries and think there should be more disclosures and regulations, yet many insiders and regular buyers at auction understand the process and how the system works.The article starts out looking at opening bids and bidding up to the reserve, where, in NY, the auctioneer may open at any level and increase the bidding so long as it is below the reserve.  The article also looks at third party guarantees which has been a process long criticized in the press about auction sales.

The article states there are very few complaints about the process, and those that do come mainly come from gallerists who are competitors.

The article also looks at gallery sales and the truth in pricing law which requires items to have price tags on them.  Many galleries in NY do not use price tags.  The article does mention enforcement by NY State is rather lax, and that many attempts to add regulations have failed.

Overall a very interesting article and worth reading.

At major auctions the first bids announced for a piece are typically fictional — numbers pulled from the air by the auctioneer to jump-start bidding.

Collectors can find themselves being bid up by someone who, in exchange for agreeing in advance to pay a set amount for a work, is promised a cut of anything that exceeds that price.

And year round, galleries ignore with impunity a 42-year-old law that says they must post their prices.

Art sales in New York, at galleries or at auction, are estimated at $8 billion a year. Yet the last significant change in the city’s auction regulations took effect more than two decades ago, when the value of transactions was less than half of what it is today.

Many in the art world insist there is no need for further scrutiny of a market that prompts few consumer complaints and is vital to the New York economy. But other veterans of the business say there is mounting concern that monitoring has not kept pace with the increasing treatment of art as a commodity.

“The art world feels like the private equity market of the ’80s and the hedge funds of the ’90s,” James R. Hedges IV, a New York collector and financier, said. “It’s got practically no oversight or regulation.”

For two decades some New York State lawmakers have been trying to curb the practice known as “chandelier bidding,” a bit of art-market theater in which auctioneers begin a sale by pretending to spot bids in the room. In reality the auctioneers are often pointing at nothing more than the light fixtures.

“The time has come to give up this fiction that there are actual real bidders,” said David Nash, a gallery owner who spent 35 years as a top executive with Sotheby’s.

But nine bills submitted in Albany over the years to ban the practice failed. So today, in a city that seeks to regulate soda consumption, chandelier bidding remains 100 percent legal. The law says auctioneers can announce such bids as long as they stop before reaching a sale item’s reserve price, the confidential minimum amount that sellers have agreed to accept.

Source: The NY Times





Chinese Laundry

Taken from the Poly International website, and shows an auction in progress.

As has become clear in recent years, a significant shift in the art and antiques market has occurred. With a population of 1.4 million millionaires, an abundance of mainland Chinese art collectors are interested and enthused in purchasing high-end Chinese art and antiques, as a way of returning Chinese art to China.

Todd W. Sigety of Appraiser Workshops referenced journalist for Forbes Abigail Esman’s “China’s $ 13 Billion Art Fraud — And What It Means For You,” in his article ” Is China the Number 1 Art Market?” recently. Sigety’s article introduces the Forbes report as an educational story about the art market in China. The Forbes report itself, however, surprisingly features a number of accusations towards China.
The Forbes report discusses that despite the Chinese art market currently being quite popular world-wide, it is very difficult to discover the true value of many pieces, since falsely inflated prices along with distorted sales for an unknown period of time, has strayed appraisers and auction houses from having the ability to discern the worth of a piece. Another variable that manipulates the value of genuine Chinese art and antiques, are the amount of fake replications of these pieces available on the market.
Unfortunately, the act of money laundering is performed during transactions in nations all around the world. Of course, this is not partial to China, however, now that a significant spotlight in the art market is shining on China, it would be wise of Chinese auction houses and other entities with global interest to more transparently report their sales and profits. Apparently, a number of non-Chinese collectors are being swindled into purchasing pieces for prices higher than their true value, and blame money laundering and market manipulation as reasons for being deceived. Although, I feel that any collector of art should know to search deeper for a piece’s provenance, authenticity, and research the piece in general to find it’s true value before purchasing. A common phenomena to beware of in the collecting world, is that the piece was not illegally un-earthed, or stolen from a site in which other pieces were destroyed in the process. My feeling is that an experienced collector — Chinese or not — would know to watch out for these warning signs in cases of possible price manipulations.
This link is to the most famous auction house in China — Beijing Poly International Auction Co., Ltd. :


Fellows & Sons, a specialized auction house in Birmingham, UK,  are starting with offering 360 degree technology / interactive images   for online catalogs, for Vintage & Modern Watches Sale on July 23rd.

This technology  would make online auction experience much more rewarding especially with three dimensions objects. I imagine it could be applied to higher priced items to justify the expense.  The antiques Trade Gazette first  reported on this.




My colleagues in China have talked for almost a year now about the art market moving too fast – for Asian pieces as well as non-Asian pieces, and that they were preparing for a different market in the future. Additionally auction sales in China follow rules not always accepted by auction houses outside China and a number of purchases by Chinese buyers of  high priced art and antiques have not been paid for.
Now Sotheby’s reports that the percentage of mainland Chinese buyers in Hong Kong has fallen from about 44% in 2011 to about 20%-25% in 2012. Despite the absence of what we would call crazy bidding by Chinese individuals, Christie’s and Sotheby’s set new records in New York sales recently for top lots; and Macau’s gaming  revenue  for April 2012 was up 22 per cent from a year earlier! So some businesses are still booming.