GUSTAVE KLIMPT, THE MASTER OF VIENNA

I AM NO FAN OF ABSTRACTION AND ITS UNSEEN HUMANITY!!

 

LAST YEAR OR THE YEAR BEFORE I HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE TO VISIT VIENNA AND ADMIRE THE CITY OF A CENTRAL EUROPEAN COUNTRY BLESSED LIKE NOT SO MANY OTHER CITIES BY MUSEUMS AND GREAT ARTISTS OF THE LAST CENTURY AND NINETEENTH CENTURY. I AM NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT SCHIELE AND HIS HAUNTING IMAGES BUT ABOUT KLIMPT AND HIS HAPPY MESSAGES TO OUR WORLD AND TO THE VIEWER OF HIS ART JUST ABOUT ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER.

THE VELVETERE HAD HIS MOST FAMOUS PAINTINGS AND TO SEE THE SPAN OF HIS WORK, TO READ HIS LIFE-STORY AND CONNECT IT WITH HIS ART WAS JUST AN AMAZING, INCREDIBLE STORY OF A MAN, A HUMAN AND HIS INFLUENCE ON US TODAY. HIS ICONOGRAPHY WAS ALL OVER AUSTRIA IN SMALL AND BIG SHOPS, IN ITS GALLERIES AND ITS MUSEUMS.

 

THE KISS!!

 

 

 

JUDITH AND HEAD OF HOLO

 

KLIMPT NEVER EMBRACED THE NEW TRENDS AND NEW IDEAS EMERGING IN PARIS IN THOSE YEARS. HE REMAINED A TRUE CLASSIC ARTIST WHO DEVOTED HIMSELF TO EMOTIONS AND HAPPY LIFE, RATHER THAN PAINTERLY TECHNIQUES WHICH AT TIMES BECAME DEVOID OF EMOTIONS, DEVOID OF HUMANITY BUT ONLY PAINTERLY INNOVATION.

IF ONE WAS TO LOOK AT HIS ART AS A WHOLE, KLIMPT PAINTED WHAT HE LOVED, THE WAY HE LIKED AND THE WAY HE LOVED TO PAINT. HUMANITY OF THE ARTIST CAME OUT AND IS COMING OUT TODAY AND AFTER OVER ONE HUNDRED YEARS, MAKING HIM THE CLASSIC ARTIST THAT HE IS!!

 

PETER CONSTANT

 

UNKNOWN ARTISTS SHOULD BE NO BARRIER IN ART!!

                  THE UNKNOWN ARTISTS BRING IN THE CASH

MY INVESTMENT POLICY HAS ALWAYS BEEN TO BUY WHAT I LIKE FIRST AND THEN THINK ABOUT THE FINANCIAL GAINS. NEARLY ALL THE GREEK ARTISTS INVESTED IN WERE OF THAT POLICY. ZENETZIS, KALOGEROPOULOS, PAPADOPOULOS, PAPANELOPOULOS, ANDREADIS. NONE OF THEM WAS A BAD INVESTMENT IN SPITE OF THE GREEK ECONOMIC SITUATION BECAUSE ART IS AN INVESTMENT FOR THE LONG HAUL AND AT LEAST TWENTY YEARS PLUS.

READING IN MY BOOK RAGS OR RICHES , WHAT INVESTMENTS I MADE IN UNKNOWN ARTISTS AND THEN WHAT THEY PROVED TO BE LATER, NOBODY CAN DENY HIMSELF/HERSELF THE THRILL OF BUYING SOMETHING VERY CHEAP AND REWARDING ONESELF WITH A VERY LOFTY PROFIT WITHIN A SHORT TIME, PLUS THE THRILL OF OWNING A GOOD PIECE OF ART FOR SOME TIME.

CONCLUDING MY ADVICE TO ALL MY READERS IS ONE AND ONLY ONE:

 

INVEST IN WHAT YOU LIKE, EVEN IF IT IS AN UNKNOWN ARTIST!!

 

 

AN UNKNOWN ARTIST WHEN I INVESTED £ 600.00 IN FOUR BIG

CANVASES OF HIS.

 

WHO IS HE?  100 X 150 CM PAINTED CIRCA 1950

 

 

 

Unknown artists

My story began for real when I purchased a small watercolour by an artist, Sydney Lawrence, unknown to experts and dealers at Sotheby’s. It was an investment made on aesthetic grounds that paid an art enthusiast handsomely and started my art venture. The diary has recounted many similar cases elsewhere, thus making a strong case for the argument:

                                  “Unknown does not mean worthless”  

Remember the Thon at Philips, the Coulentianos at Roseburys, Lanza at Lots Road?  These are only a small number among the dozens that I can really recount.  There are still plenty of other unknown artists waiting to be discovered.  The reference libraries, the myriad of publications on the Internet are great sources of information, but they only reveal a small part of the whole story. Unless you unite opportunity and available information you will not make that miraculous investment that might change your life.

There are thousands of unknown artists whose work merits more respect and better financial support. The auction arena is a very unforgiving and harsh environment where such work sells for a song, although worth a lot more artistically. If the artist is unknown to you but you like the piece, then buy for art, and value for money is certain to be there too. I paid thirty-two pounds for the Page watercolours at the counter of Christie’s South Kensington. Ingrald –Lund is generally unknown, but the royal content of the painting renders it valuable. What is the difference in the art of Amorsolo and his student Custodio?   The first is a famous, known artist selling over £100,000 at auction and the second one a little known artist selling for just over £1,000.

An unknown artist does not mean a bad artist; on the contrary it might mean a future master and a treasure!

 

Trendy and fashionable artists

There are times and long periods when the work of an artist is exceedingly desirable and much sought after by serious investors as well as one off investors who want to jump on the bandwagon. As a seasoned investor, I have already learned to avoid hot and trendy artists.

Many artists are trendy and fashionable, but not necessarily a good and sound investment for the future. What I advise here cannot be dismissed lightly:

·         When an artist becomes highly fashionable and trendy, the call of the sirens and respectable gurus to invest in his/her art is a loud warning to avoid investing in such art and artist.

·         Investing in an artist whose prices are frothing cannot be the best investment strategy.

Every country has its trendy and fashionable artists. They are extremely desirable and expensive contemporary artists.  They are still alive, producing work in abundance, actually too much art for comfort. Will they be that collectable and a sound investment in twenty-thirty years’ time? That remains to be seen and therefore my advice is to be careful with such investments, as their future value is not guaranteed.

Art history and auction prices talk about artists whose prices saw meteoric rises for one reason or another. Then prices gradually came down to a level that made their work affordable and one where many investors were happy to invest in. What changed?  Trends, fashions and times! Victorian art is not fashionable right now; the Pre-Raphaelites were the trendy art of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the prices achieved about twenty years ago are not possible any more. A few investors disappeared, prices fell and the crazy prices of those are a distant memory.

It would be unwise to part with a significant sum of money because all of a sudden certain collectors chase the work of an artist. The reasons might be promotional rather than real quality of art and market forces. There is no need to mention names among the top contemporary artists, but beware of the huge bubbles that are ready to explode.  Wise are the investors who bought the art of famous contemporary artists when these artists were relatively unknown!

                   

                     “Leading the pack is much wiser than following the flock!”

 

 

 

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE!!

           MANY A TIME I WAS IMPATIENT

 

IT USUALLY ENDED IN LOSSES THAT SHOULD HAVE NOT BEEN THERE. THE ONLY REASON WAS RUSHING TO INVEST IN SOMETHING WITHOUT SECURING THE SALE AND WITHOUT THINKING ENOUGH OF WHAT THE PROPOSED INVESTMENT WAS. RUSHING INTO THINGS HAS ALWAYS PROVEN ME WRONG AND THE ADVICE HERE IS PATIENCE, NO RUSH!!

 

ALEXANDRA EXTER, A RUSSIAN AVANT-GARDE AMAZON!!

 

 

A subdued market allows me to snatch a “Real Dream Masterpiece”

Alexandra Exter

(Russian/Ukranian, [1882-1949] Avant-garde artist who embraced the movements of her day working both in Russia and Paris; among the top ten artists of Russia-Ukraine. Auction price range £10,000 – 1,100,000)

16th June 1988, Paris

The disastrous vibrations of the 1987 stock exchanges crash lasted until the summer of 1988. There was hope that something good would draw my attention during those eight months. I was praying that it would be something impressive and something that would prove to be a major investment for the future. The catalogues kept coming, the images did not attract me much, but then again, a dealer/investor in art is like a hunter, hunting for that elusive lottery-like painting.  I never lost faith in the business and I always hoped to uncover that special gem at a bargain price.

I had purchased the Dyf for immediate trading but what about the long term? The catalogue from Paris was impressive, but it was mostly of French paintings. Then I stopped on a painting by Alexandra Exter. It was impressive, provenanced and well within my range at an estimate of £4000.

Where had I seen the name?  Who was Exter?  How many investors had heard of her or knew her auction performance in 1988?  Four months earlier the artist did not ring a bell, when the same painting had sold at Sotheby’s Arcade Sales in New York for $3000. I had no interest in Exter at that time but this time round I had something more solid to rely on and started a frenzied research about her. 

Yes, four months more experience and work is a long time in any line of work. Christie’s London had sold a small watercolour of hers for £8000 in March 1988.  How many people knew about that?  How many people had spent a significant amount of money on catalogues and meticulously wrote down the results or studied the artists and memorized names and results?  How many people had spotted that sale in London and the upcoming sale in Paris at a smaller auction?  Was accumulating knowledge by the day and month going to reward a studious, hard working person like myself? Would experience and up to date auction trading tilt the balance in my favour and enable me to invest in an extremely underrated artist?

The Exter was the painting I had been dreaming of and hoping to invest in. I had no doubt about it. It was of museum quality and size. I wanted it and was prepared to pay a high price for it, the highest I had ever paid. I went headlong into researching Alexandra Exter and her art.  There were not too many sales records, but there was a lot of literature and exhibitions. My research showed her to be an artist in Kiev, in Moscow, in Paris and in Rome.  More importantly she was considered one of the top six Russian avant-garde artists. She was indeed a big name with very little auction activity.

The question was not whether to buy, the question was how much to pay for the painting? I had a war chest of £18000 and that I was prepared to pay to acquire the work. In my view and my calculations any work of an artist selling for £8000 for a small watercolour can sell for that amount and more for a much larger oil painting. I did not consider the date of execution and the difference in style that important, which I had to at some point later. Further research at the main art libraries reinforced my conviction of the value of the artist and therefore of the work. I also calculated future Russian interest, as I believed Russia was a sleeping giant coming out of hibernation after nearly a century.

Business cannot be separated from the political circumstances of the world and your perceptions of what is happening in the world.  They are inextricably linked.

The whole sum of  £18000 was ready to invest in Exter. I felt the painting was a masterpiece by a master of nearly one hundred years ago, painted in a style the whole world was looking to buy: cubist, curvelinear, archaic, figurative!

Waiting for the day of the auction was impossible. With a little luck, I had a reasonable chance of buying a masterpiece, which I hoped would be the ultimate prize of my art venture.  You might wonder why I did not jump on a plane or boat to go to France and bid on the spot for the work!  I must have had other obligations.  But I also knew that going back and forth to Paris would have cost me about three hundred pounds and there was no guarantee I would be allowed to buy the painting.  Plus, if I did go and managed to buy the painting, I would not have been able to bring it back with me because of all the hateful French bureaucracy surrounding art exportation at that time.

The day of the sale arrived and I was glued to the phone. The French were anxious to sell rather than anxious to bid against me. It was a tough time for the art market and it was the end of the season.

One, two, three and the Exter was mine at £4,800 inclusive of commissions! 

It was unbelievable. I was unsure whether to jump for joy or put my head in the sand and cry. Surely the French knew a couple of things about an artist who had spent nearly thirty years of her life in Paris.  I was not sure any more, but then again I felt I was ahead of the market by a few months, if not one year with regards to auction sales and price movements on many artists.  Sales in major auction rooms (September to August) appeared once a year in the Art Sales Indexes of the time in November/December of the following season.  Importantly, there was no Internet in those days to check prices, sales and other vital pieces of information. Thus I concluded, to prop up my wavering confidence in the painting, the Exter result at Christie’s London was not known to the masses but only to those who followed the top market and sales.

I had invested nearly five thousand pounds in a painting sold at the worst time of the year and after the worst financial event for decades and at ten thousand pounds below my top estimate! June 1988 had been a very kind month to me with two promising purchases within one week of each other!

The summer of 1988 was busy enough, but more was to happen soon to lift my spirits and give me another push forward.  The exciting world of art, my new world and new life, had more in store for me. My only wish and hope was endorsement of my plans and aspirations. Political events were pivotal in all my ideas.

I could see a sea of political and economic change in Eastern Europe and Russia, a fact that possibly few factored into their investments at that time.

 

Alexandra Exter, a great investment?

The arrival of a new investment is as exciting as the purchasing moment.  I couldn’t wait to see the Exter!  Unwrapping the painting I had such high expectations, but at first glance my spirits sank.  I was not impressed. The flimsy, cheap frame, which I took away and binned, did not do justice to the painting.  Years of neglect and accumulated dirt had taken the brightness and shine off the piece. My dream painting looked weird and incomprehensible - a cubist-futurist painting, which I found hard to interpret and live with.  It looked out of place among the other paintings I had already invested in. 

 

Exter photo, XXXXXXXXX  ( many to choose from)

Regardless of this initial negative reaction, I was still satisfied with the investment and especially with the amount of money I had paid to acquire it. It was a bargain, I kept re-assuring myself. The Russians were coming out of the cold era that communism had driven them into. All the signs of a Russian revival were there. Perestroika was happening. The major auctions were holding important sales of Russian art and things looked very promising. I was reasonably hopeful and optimistic.

In March 1989, just nine months after the Exter purchase, Sotheby’s had a Russian sale that included a couple of Exter paintings. The estimates were dizzying and I was hoping they sold and sold well, as if they belonged to me. I was expecting good results, but not the ones that followed in the next few months and years!  The sale at Sotheby’s was a tremendous success with an abstract Exter selling for £900,000 and a gouache of a ballerina for £150,000!   Christie’s had a couple of very high results too, including one of £600,000.  I went crazy with the thought that I had made the best investment ever just a few months earlier. Comparatively, I was sitting on a fortune, but is that how the art market and price of paintings work?

Dreams were streaming in my head; millions were in my thoughts.  I felt I should show my property to experts in Russian art, which I did.  I was no expert in that area, but did I have to be in order to estimate the value of my property?  Experts in certain areas have in depth knowledge and knowledge that at times disappoints. The estimates were well below expectations and hopes! The maximum I heard was £15,000, which was incomprehensible to me.  An offer from a private gallery to sell at £25,000 in late November of 1989 was rejected outright.

So, why the low estimates from the experts? 

Apparently the Exter was a painting of 1925 rather than the early teens between 1910-1924 when Exter was working between Russia and Europe in better, more desirable styles and times.  That was education for me, but I was not going to allow opinions to derail my dreams, was I?  The painting had a good provenance, but there was no history and no literature to support a high value painting, as I felt the Exter was.  I needed to put together something myself, if the painting was to become more valuable and more desirable.

Any painting of serious value must have:

·         Provenance, which this painting had

·         Literature, which the painting did not have

·         Exhibitions’ history, which the painting did not have

As far as I was concerned the painting was of excellent quality.  As soon as I had it cleaned and conserved, I believed once again in its value.  How could I work on the two areas the painting was lacking?  I had to exhibit it and have it included in a book or catalogue raisonné.

I was deep in the art business and if I did not know how to swim through this enterprise of mine, I had to learn the hard way.  Things do happen, when you make them happen! I was determined and I got on to making things happen for the best painting I had ever invested in!  Constant Art was to put Exter on the map or rather Alexandra Exter was to put ‘Constant Art’ and ‘Greeksinart’ on the map of art dealers with important paintings!

PETER CONSTANT, A BLOG OF SERIOUS EXPERIENCES

 

 

MARINE ART AND OUR CONNECTION!!

WE ARE ATTRACTED BY THE SEA AND MARINE ART!!

 

IT GOES BACK YEARS AND PERHAPS IT GOES BACK TO WHEN YOUNG AND SWIMMING IN THE SEAS OF MY BIRTHPLACE. BLUE SEAS, SANDY BEACHES AND ALL THE HAPPINESS OF BEING TOGETHER AND IN THE WATER.  HUMANS ARE MAINLY WATER MATERIAL WITH SOUL AND BRAINS WHICH IS THE REASON I BELIEVE WE ARE ALWAYS ATTRACTED BY WATER AND ITS BLESSINGS!

IS MARINE ART A BLESSING?

 

Underrated, Unknown and Fashionable Artists

 

Underrated and reappraised artists

John Bentham-Dinsdale

(British, [1926-2008] High quality marine artist, who specialised in historical ships and battle-scenes. Well regarded by both British and American collectors. Seriously underrated. Auction price range £1000- 6000)

Bonhams November 2001   - 21st November 2012, Christie’s South Kensington

Deceased and appreciating in value

The worry of backing the wrong market or artists has always been a serious concern. Diversifying and investing in a variety of nationality paintings, while the focus market was the Greek one, was nevertheless prudent and wise.  With that basic fundamental in practice, I sought promising, underrated and undervalued artists, regardless of nationality.

Loving marine art and having invested plenty in it, I was on the lookout for the next possible Dawson of England at a reasonable price.  The ‘Nightingale’ by Bentham-Dinsdale appeared at a minor sale at Bonhams, London in early 2001. It was of great quality, a good size and the ship historically important. I considered it a promising investment for the years to come because I felt the artist’s work was grossly underpriced and undersold.  I managed to acquire it for £1200 and although not a bargain at that price it was nevertheless a great purchase for my personal gratification and joy as well as a sound investment for the long-term future.

 

Reappraisal of an artist’s work- Cashing in an investment

It is 2011 and there is a noticeable, healthy appreciation of Bentham-Dinsdale’s work both in London and New York.  Two average examples of his work sold for £4000 each and others realized prices of about £3000. When something like this happens, it becomes rather obvious that the artist’s work is under the microscope of the art connoisseurs and investors.

Why the jump in Bentham-Dinsdale’s auction value?  Because unfortunately he passed away in 2008!  When an artist of some repute dies his/her work comes in for reappraisal and can appreciate dramatically overnight because:

·         The source is gone, the number of paintings is finite and investors know that scarcity of art means higher prices.

·         Dealers and investors are first to invest in the artist’s work in the hope that it will appreciate in value quickly and considerably. 

What is the value of the Bentham-Dinsdale I invested in ten years ago? Well it has gradually increased in value, but it is difficult to estimate.  It might be just close to £2000, perhaps £4000 or even more by the time this book reaches the readers. I expected the painting to appreciate in time and on the artist’s death, but that has come earlier than expected, even though the artist lived to be eighty-two.

 

Consigning a work of art at auction in 2012

21st November 2012, Christie’s London

The decision to sell any piece of art is often emotionally demanding. However, the Bentham-Dinsdale painting was an investment in 2001, plain and simple, thus it was not too difficult to part with it.  Eleven years after purchase I felt the time was right to sell.

Before consigning the painting for sale with Christie’s South Kensington in August 2012 several steps had to be taken. These same steps apply to any items of art up to £100,000 when sold at auction. Before you sell your valuable investments consider the following:

·         Which auction sells the artist best?

·         What are the current auction results and how do they compare with the initial investment? Visit auction sites, artprice, artnet or 10000artists.com to get such up to date information.

·         Make an appointment to see the expert(s) in charge or send them good photos of the painting. Emails are great nowadays.

·         Make sure you have at hand all the information you need regarding the painting: provenance, literature, exhibitions etc. and ask for all the information to be written down on the consignment paperwork.

·         To sell a good piece of art in the £3,000-100,000 at a major auction, you need to approach the auction house at least three months in advance.

At the consignment stage finalise the following issues:

·         The sale your property will be included in - preferably a theme sale

·         Reserve and estimate and therefore insurance

·         Rate of commission charges

·         Illustration charges

·         Possible unsold charges; insist on no sale, no unsold charges

 

The Bentham-Dinsdale is with Christie’s for their Marine Sale of November 2012. The catalogue arrives early in November. There are only 120 lots on offer, but some of the pieces are important and promising. Needless to say, I value the Bentham-Dinsdale highly and above the £3000 low estimate.  There are three other small paintings by the artist in the sale, but ‘The Nightingale’ looks superb and the best of the group. Am I praising my property once again?

21st November 2012, The Sale

Teaching between 9-12.00 daily has been the way since 2007. The arrangement suits me; it’s less strenuous and keeps everything in order. On 21st November I am asked to accompany the class I am involved with to the Globe Theatre in London. No issue, no worries. Christie’s can do the selling without my presence in the saleroom. I am missing the thrill of a sale, the triumph of an investment, but I have been through that hundreds of times.

The weather is awful with non-stop rain and gale force winds.  The trip has its hairy moments with the wind buffeting us across the Millennium Bridge!  Hold on to me kids!  United we’re safe, divided we’re in the Thames!  Ominous weather on the day of the sale!  I panic a little, but am still hopeful that the sale will be a good one.

Fortunately, all safe back at school and I’m off home quickly to check the result of the sale. It comes up quickly on the computer screen: Sold £6250 inclusive of 25% commissions.  I am overjoyed.  A 400% return over eleven years – a contemporary British artist brings in the rewards this time round! Nationality does not matter, investment success matters!

Re-investing in the artist

5th March 2013, Bonhams, Chester England

Bentham-Dinsdale was one of those underrated artists in the early 2000s; not the case now as his art has been upgraded and can sell for over £6000. The Dinsdale oil on canvas at Bonhams, Chester looked good and well within the bargain category at one third of its actual retail value. Estimated at £800 I considered it a good investment opportunity. On the day I bought it for a total of £1500 including commissions and other expenses, which allows me some optimism of a good return in a few years’ time.

JOHN BENTHAM -DINSDALE 


 

Neglected and forgotten artists deserve a second and third look

I started writing this diary with no aim a long time ago.  I guess I was just feeding my own ego! That changed and the reasons why this book is now in your hands is to:

·         Tell the story of an amateur investor who over time became a connoisseur

·         Assist anyone wishing to follow the same path

·         Help any potential investors to invest wisely

·         Inform sellers where and how to sell their valuable art

·         Alert sellers to their rights when selling at auction

Suggesting how to invest, who to invest in and why is not easy and not finite as there are millions of artists worldwide, but only a few thousand that might make the difference to you. Anybody reading these memoirs and thinking along the same lines as I have done over the last thirty years will have the ride of his/her life. I am convinced similar and better results can be achieved. I have arrived where I am today by loving what I have been doing and by working extremely hard. 

If you have a business sense, if you are a hard worker and a small risk- taker, then you have an awesome combination to succeed either in the art business or any other business. Take the opportunities by the horn and believe in yourself.

There is an abundance of artists selling in the low hundreds and even less at auction worldwide. There are those whose work is not rated highly, while there are others whose work is of merit but in disfavour and unwanted at the time they appear at auction.

Alexandra Exter is a shining example of that. Unwanted in the USSR period and neglected, paying $3000 in February 1988 at Sotheby’s New York was a very small sum for the artist and her work. Paying £4500 four months later was still very little for the artist. Selling a Richard Sommer painting at Christie’s South Kensington for £500 in 1986 was a major mistake because similar paintings of the artist sell between twenty and forty thousand pounds today. Was it a good idea to sell a lovely John Bratby for £500 in the late 1980s?

The auction scene offers plenty of opportunities to buy underrated artists who are deceased or alive.  Living artists are the ones where an investor might make a significant sum of money, but they are harder to locate and riskier to invest in. Yes, we cannot all discover a Warhol, Murakami or Hirst, but there are thousands of other artists who offer investment opportunities and those are the ones we recommend you look for.

John Bentham-Dinsdale was trading close to £2000 at best at the turn of the millennium. His marine art was of the highest quality and any price below that was an investment opportunity. AR Penck’s top art was trading in the region of £20,000 in the 1980s.  His important art sells close to £200,000 today.

The opportunities to invest in artists with similar profiles are plenty.  All that’s required is good research, a little knowledge, a little money and love of an artist’s work.  My strong advice is to buy for personal gratification primarily and the markets and time will take care of the rest.

               

 

                         “ Neglected and forgotten means investment”

 

BUYING AT AUCTION IS NOT ALWAYS STRAIGHT FORWARD

AUCTIONS MAKE MISTAKES BUT HAVE CONDITIONS OF SALE FOR REMEDIES

For thirty odd years i bought and sold art at auction. i learned the business in practice with no help from anybody and advice from anybody. such advice is too expensive and at times i needed it but it was nowhere to be had.

thus, what my blog provides here is as valuable as any advice you might get of a paid professional for advice and guidance, when you buy at auction!!

 

no such issues when you buy from ther artists directly, like most of our stock is:

 

Elefterios Venizepos, painted by Vasilis Zenetzis in 2004

 

 

 

Guarantees of authenticity at auctions

Christie’s and Sotheby’s have earned the trust and confidence of their customers by offering guarantees of authenticity of five years on art they sell. Guarantees at other auctions can vary from two years at larger auctions, to months, weeks or no guarantees at all at smaller auctions.  It is therefore imperative to read the conditions of sale for every auction you intend to buy or sell at.

The five-year guarantee at the major auctions reads as follows:

“ If a purchase is proven not to be genuine and not by the artist stated, then, provided the painting is returned in the same condition as bought, we will refund the purchase sum but not any expenses incurred because of the painting.”

That I already knew well. The Harpignies had cost an additional £1500 in expenses to restore, frame and ship to New York and back to London. That was a hefty loss and a very serious lesson to learn. Knowledge and experience gained cost high sums of money, but unfortunately there was no other way to carry on trading.

The experience gained from the Harpignies trade was invaluable and well worth remembering:

·         The value of a painting dictates a proportionate restoration expense that should not exceed 20% of the final selling price.

·         Buy from auctions with guarantees of authenticity.

·         Major auctions as well as smaller ones make mistakes of attribution, thus great care should be taken when buying to ensure authenticity.

Auction houses honour their guarantees and legal responsibilities.  The Harpignies was returned to Christie’s. The verdict of the expert could not be questioned and the investment of £2200 was returned promptly.  The expert in charge, who was a good friend by then, apologized for the unfortunate event and promised to help financially with illustrations of paintings in future sales, so that I could recover some of the expenses incurred on the painting.  I appreciated this and time and again illustration charges were waived.  As a result of this good will and my friendship with the expert in charge, Christie’s were to make some serious money in the future from my business with them.

The expert was actually to help more than that later and when the difference between his opinion and that of others was in the tens of thousands of pounds. For that I am still eternally grateful to him.  He was indeed a good businessman, and in helping me he helped Christie’s business too. Well done to him! Major auctions are sympathetic and understanding to their clients’ needs and problems. They try to help as much as they can and within the interests of the business they work for. However exceptions also exist, which will become apparent in later entries.

The most important lesson with the Harpignies purchase was loud and clear and it needs to be repeated and expanded: 

·         Experts are human and thus can make mistakes. They have an opinion, which at times, even though rare, might be wrong.  Nobody is infallible.

It is also important to note that: 

·         There are experts on individual artists and they should be consulted before works of art are catalogued. Unprofessional cataloguing? No! Careless and quick cataloguing!

·        Dealers make mistakes too or at times they gamble on a painting as being authentic or by a certain artist. I did not gamble in the Harpignies case. I made an investment relying heavily on Christie’s attribution, which happened to be wrong.

I concluded that I had to make sure myself that what I invested in was well researched and checked many times before it was purchased.  If in doubt, I never paid my hard earned money. Even after I had bought something, I still carried on the checking to make sure everything was in order.  Fakes are mushrooming all over the art world and one has to be one million percent sure that what is purchased is the genuine article.  Keep your eyes open and tread cautiously as in rare cases such mistakes might be deliberate.  Fake is not just banana skins you skid and fall on. The Harpignies case was a small skid by the summer of 1987, but by 1990 things would become much more serious. The Knoedler Gallery case in New York in 2012-13 is a case of millions exchanging hands for possible fakes.

 

Have I always followed my own advice and learnt from my own mistakes? Are you joking! I am human, I am stubborn and most of all I repeat mistakes, which as the ancient Greeks used to say:

 

“ To commit the same mistake twice is not a sign of a wise man”

 

When buying at small auctions the guarantees are for a few days if any offered at all. My advice, if you are to spend significant amounts, read the conditions of business of the particular auction. it might save you plenty of money!!