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 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.


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”

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