smART Collecting – Part III: What To Look For In A Work Of Art


Part I – Eye appeal, Subject matter, Period, Medium, and Signature  Part II – Reputation, Condition, Authenticity, Provenance, Publication and Exhibition History, and Originality Part III – Guarantee, Quality, Rarity, and Value 

Guarantee. New collector’s best approach to collecting is to buy art from ethical dealers and to get a guarantee in writing. The guarantee is the buyer’s basic legal protection. Many reputable dealers offer exchange privileges along with their guarantee.

Quality. Judgments of quality depend on knowledge and connoisseurship. Dealers are skilled at assessing the relative aesthetic merits of a given work, evaluating it both within the larger context of art history and within the specific context of the artist’s oeuvre.

Rarity. Rarity tends to enhance value. The rarity of a given work is determined by how many similar examples exist and how frequently such works become available. Even in the contemporary world, where artists are still living, some pieces can be much harder to get than others. By understanding a specific artist’s oeuvre and by tracking the market, a dealer is ideally poised to recognize the rarity of works that come up for sale.

Value. Art chosen solely on the basis of price will yield a mediocre collection that does not necessarily hold its value on resale. It is collections formed with passion and intelligence that stand the test of time, both aesthetically and monetarily. Collectors should be wary of apparent bargains and promises of future gains. Although no one can predict the future, dealers are able to place current values in perspective.

Sources: “The Art Fever” by James Parsons and the Art Dealers Association of America

Andrew Wolf, LLC 19th & 20th Century Fine Art, Art Pottery, Sculpture & Books

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