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  • gerard van weyenbergh

How to start a fine art collection

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. An excellent fine art expert needs a lot of experience in multiple domains.

Buying fine art requires experience, more or less depending on 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 usually reflects 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 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 display 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 lowest reserve price possible; this is negotiable, and of course, experience will help to obtain the highest possible reserve price. The auction houses take a minimum of 25 % from the sales prices from the seller and 25 % from the buyer; yes, that's correct, 50 % !!! For high-value paintings, the % is decreasing, but still, no wonder you have so many auction houses in Good shape or Bad shape, as I will explain later. You can negotiate the seller's premium with an auction house if you have a high-end value painting ( more than 10 M $ ). Also, with an art value above 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 the seller for the sold item... Weird? Yes, it's odd since they have only their functioning money to invest in a sale...publicity, catalogs, etc. And it happens more than we think. I personally had to deal with an auction from the East Coast a couple of 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 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 for the auction house. Too high reserve prices, too much communication publicity, not enough quality merchandise, etc. I did wait almost seven 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 do your homework. Recently an auction house in Belgium, 2 months before Xmas, made a lot of 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 for 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 would occur after the new year, 2014. After the 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 of times at the four corners in France. We had the same sad story a couple of 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 houses in the country.. always do your homework, and who better than a fine art expert can do this.

Gerard Van Weyenbergh -


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