Monday, March 15, 2010

Buying paintings: Condition, condition, condition.

If there is one type of thing we buy at auction more often it's paintings. We have also bought at galleries, but we're convinced the value (price for quality) is much better at auction.

A challenge we face when buying is that we're not experts at determining condition. We buy what we like and we pay a price that we're comfortable with. We rely on the auction house to tell us about the condition and make our decision from there. I recently bought a painting featured in this blog with a number of condition issues noted by the auction house, so at least went in eyes wide open.

I found this brief description of what conditions issues to look for when buying a painting very helpful. It's in a blog by a gallery, Blue Heron Fine Art. Here is a link:

Condition, condition, condition.

One of our favorite paintings was given to us by my father. He bought it at a garage sale many years ago for about $50. When we got it we did some research, since it was signed Anton Mauve. Anton Mauve turned out to be the uncle of Vincent Van Gogh and taught him to paint! He is also in many museums. The subject is pretty typical of Mauve as well. We were pretty excited, needless to say. We thought we had one of those Antiques Roadshow sort of discoveries. Here it is:


We happen to have a neighbor in our building who does appraisals for Christie's. We asked if she could give us an opinion.  She looked it over and even sent a photo to a colleague in Amsterdam who is an expert on Mauve. You probably know where this is going, but it is a 19th century fake! Who knew that Anton Mauve was worth faking. Anyway, it's still one of our favorite paintings and has pride of place in our living room.

Many expert guides on collecting will tell you that one of the first rules is not to buy as an investment, but buy what you like and pay what you feel is a fair price to get that enjoyment. For the $50 my father paid for our 'Anton Mauve', we get more than that 100 times over in enjoyment. 

Before you bid on something, don't be afraid to ask lots of questions and ask them to point out the condition issues. This will help you learn what to look for on your own. 

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