How to Sell Fine Art?
April 15, 2014 2:25 PM   Subscribe

My mother owned some art from the 60s-80s, and she passed a little over four years ago; since then, it has been in my spare closet. I would like to sell it, if possible, because I believe some of the work is valuable, but the closed art market makes that impossible to assess. I understand that to sell art, the broker/seller/?? will take a percentage of a sale, which is fine. But I've asked around (here in Portland, ME) and I haven't received a reference for someone who can help me with that. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.
posted by miss tea to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If these pieces are by well-known artists, perhaps search eBay for recently completed auctions to see if the same or similar pieces by these artists are selling, and for how much.

Also, Portland's not terribly far from Boston. It might be worth calling or e-mailing someone at the Museum of Fine Art there, to see if they'd be willing to recommend an appraiser. (I'm not suggesting you ask for the museum to buy your pieces, just to ask them for an appraiser or guidance for selling your mother's art.)
posted by tckma at 2:42 PM on April 15, 2014

Best answer: Years ago I sold some things with Sotheby's in Boston. I live within an hour of Boston, emailed them pictures of what I had and they came to me, boxed everything up, dealt with the sales and I got a check. It was painless.
posted by kinetic at 2:50 PM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I believe some of the work is valuable, but the closed art market makes that impossible to assess.

It super really does not. Art is one of the most transparent markets out there. Plug the atist(s) into ArtNet can you can see what galleries are selling them, and for a $30 - $40 subscription, you can see what they earned at auction, where and in what kind of sale.

Or you could just give the information you have in this thread; people will at the very least be able to tell you if the art your mother bought is currently collected.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:59 PM on April 15, 2014

Best answer: Your local museum will not be able to give you an appraisal, but they could potentially direct you to a list of local appraisers. Or you could search yourself at the American Society of Appraisers website. Additionally you can pay for a subscription at a website that aggregates auction results, like AskArt or ArtPrice, and look there. Another place to check is a gallery that sells other work by the artist.
posted by PussKillian at 3:03 PM on April 15, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all! Now I have some paths to pursue. I appreciate your speedy responses.
posted by miss tea at 3:29 PM on April 15, 2014

Best answer: Baridoff is your local auction house. I'd start there, both because they are closer and because a smaller auction house is likely to be more responsive than Sotheby's.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:09 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I work for an fine art auction house. If you were anywhere in our area (Toronto), or even if any of the artists were Canadian, I'd suggest you email us photos of the works, along with as much information you have on them (provenance, artist, title, media, dimensions, etc). I can't speak for other houses, but given the correct information we'll usually provide an informal estimate of the auction value for free.

I'd give the house that Mr. Know-it-some suggested a call and if they can't help you, I'm sure they could recommend someone who could.
posted by rhooke at 8:30 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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