How to get a Claes Oldenburg film appraisal
February 14, 2012 6:29 PM   Subscribe

My parents use to hang out with Claes Oldenburg back in the 50s and 60s. My father took a B and W silent film of one of his happenings, "Gayety", at U of Chicago in 1963. What to do with it?

The film is darkish, but clearly shows Claes and several other artists doing their thing.
I approached the Walker Art Center with it and they said they were so excited, had a showing with all their curator and said they would get it appraised and talk to me. This was 2 yrs. ago. One of the curators told me, about a yr ago, that they were still interested and excited.
It's not as unique as we hoped. "Gayety" was filmed by another person and that film was exhibited an Oldenburg Happenings film show at the Whitney about a month before my father died (2+ yrs ago).
I have an personal email from Mr. Oldenburg attesting to the authenticity of the film.
My siblings and I want:
An amount of money that is appropriate with its significance, whatever that is (many different opinions from friends, but I don't know where to get a professional appraisal- no idea where the Whitney got their appraisals)
A place for it to be available for interested people to see it.
Some recognition for my father.

I know the Walker is hoping we will just donate it, and that is a possibility, but not our first choice.

Thanks for any insight!
posted by Kazimirovna to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to any of the big auction houses or art dealers who've carried Oldenberg's work? That's how you get a sense of the cash value: by talking to people in a position to sell it.

Of course ensuring public access is another matter, but this is a starting point.
posted by alms at 7:09 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

American Society of Appraisers has a "find an appraiser" tool online. The Walker shouldn't have offered to get the work appraised for you, actually. They could have given you information on how to find an appraiser, but they can't perform the appraisal or steer you towards a particular person. Talking to galleries who have worked with the Oldenbergs are also a good way to go.

And now I've typed the word "appraiser" so often it looks weird.
posted by PussKillian at 7:13 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for a second offer, you should get in touch with the University of Chicago Film Studies Center. They have a large and well-stored (archival temperature and humidity control) film collection that includes several prints related to U of C campus life in the 1960s, and it's possible they'll be interested because of the campus connection (was your father a student there, by any chance?)

However, as I'm sure you know, the hope/expectation of donation is not unique to the Walker. Unless there's something particularly striking about your father's film - is it in pristine condition? is the contrast good? was your father a filmmaker or artist of any note himself? was your father's relationship to Oldenburg particularly close or otherwise significant in Oldenburg's career? - I wouldn't hedge your bets on getting compensated for it beyond appreciation and public acknowledgment of your family's gift.
posted by bubukaba at 8:59 PM on February 14, 2012

Try asking the Video Data Bank to purchase it.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 5:44 AM on February 15, 2012

Agreeing with bubukaba here - it's unlikely that you and your siblings would be realizing a lot of money out of this film. If you want it to be seen, donate it to an institution that will preserve it and show it.
posted by PussKillian at 7:12 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

AFAIK the Video Data Bank is interested exclusively in video work. I don't think they hold any film at all.
posted by bubukaba at 10:03 AM on February 15, 2012

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