Thursday, February 24, 2011

Should You Use Price-Per-Square Inch to Price Paintings?

Gary Lynn Roberts, 16 x 20, $4,750
Is Price-per-Square inch a legitimate way to value or price paintings?  Price per square inch is determined by taking the total price and dividing it by the total square inches.  Let's say I like a Gary Lynn Roberts painting that's 16" x 20" and it's priced at $4,750 (a good deal if you ask me), the price per square inch would be $4,750 divided by 16 then divided by 20 to get a price per square inch of $14.84.  It's an objective way to analyze painting prices, and I think configuring the price per square inch can be a useful tool in comparing painting prices; however, I don't think it should be used exclusively, rather in conjunction with other factors that are important in determining an artwork's value.  See "Painting Evaluations".  For the most part, configuring the value of a piece of art is subjective, and that's why you always see estimates in auction values and not an exact figure.  One of the great things about Art is that it's subjective.  Who's to say one painting is better than another?  People have different tastes and preferences in style and subject matters, so what they're willing to pay is going to be different too.  A painting is worth whatever someone will pay for it; however, those baselines are usually set by previous sales, supply/demand, and the Collection Factors of the artist and work of art.

Let's use Gary Lynn Roberts' work as an example when using price per square inch as a tool to analyze value for a painting.  Here are 3 examples of recent auction records of Gary Lynn Roberts' work.
  1. "Painted For Battle"  36" x 48"  Estimated: $20,000-$26,000  Sold: $28,750  Square Inch Price: $16.64
  2. "The Scouts"  40" x 50"  Estimated: $25,000-$35,000  Sold: $40,250  Square Inch Price: $20.13
  3. "Men of the Northwest"  20" x 30"  Estimated: $7,500-$8,500  Sold: $10,600  Square Inch Price: $17.67
When you look at the information above, you can see that the demand for Gary's work at auction is strong becuase they all sold above the high estimate.  The image shown is titled "Pathfinders" and it's a 16" x 20" oil priced at $4,750.  If you take the price per square inch: $14.84, you can see that it's a good value in proportion to his recent auction records.  It's important to note that the paintings that sold at auction are larger, and the subject matter of the first two listed are of Native Americans, but it's safe to say that the $4,750 asking price of "Pathfinder" is not unreasonable and if you like the painting it would be a good value.  Contact me if you would like to purchase "Pathfinder."

As a buyer, we always want to do our due-diligence in researching the artists we like, the dealers we work with, and any details about the painting we're interested in.  It's in our nature to research major purchases because no one wants to get ripped off.  Price per square inch is just one tool that can be used in comparing painting prices to make sure we're getting a fair value, but it's very important that we take into consideration the quality of the painting, the overall size, the provenance, subject matter, medium, condition, and most of all, how much you love the painting.  I've never heard someone talk about how much they regret buying a painting, but if I had a dollar for everytime someone told me about the painting that got away, I would be able to feed the 50,000 children living on the streets of Kinshasa, Congo.  From my experience, if you come across a painting that moves you, buy it!  I can't tell you how many people are haunted by that painting that they didn't buy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Masters of the American West 2011 Recap

From Left: Jeremy Lipking, Buddy Le, Josh Paquette, Logan Hagege, Josh Rose

I just returned from the Masters of the American West Show at the Autry National Center and it was a great time as usual.  Anytime you can get out of the winter doldrums of North Idaho and into the sunshine of Southern California, you know it's going to be a good trip.  Besides the sunshine, it was terrific visiting with all the familiar faces of the Western Art World.  Shows like the Masters of the American West or the Prix de West are great because of the accessibility of the artists and the camaraderie with collectors and dealers.  The attendance and energy at this year's Master's was fantastic!  It was shoulder to shoulder throughout the entire reception and the flurry of action during the draw is always frenetic.  According to a source at the Autry National Center, the opening night sales totaled an astounding $3.25 million!  It felt like people wanted to buy, but it seemed like everyone wanted the same paintings.  Based on the total sales, they obviously liked the overall quality of the show.  There seemed to be particular buzz around Bill Anton, Kyle Polzin, Kyle Sims, and Daniel Smith, and of course there's always the hype surrounding Howard Terpning's masterpiece and works by Mian Situ and Morgan Weistling.  Here's a breakdown of the award winners for this year:

Z.S. Liang's "Rejecting the Metal Shield, Fort Mackenzie, 1835"


Given in recognition of the work acquired by the Autry National Center for its permanent collection
Z. S. Liang, Rejecting the Metal Shield, Fort Mackenzie, 1835


Given in recognition of exceptional artistic merit
Howard Terpning, Among the Spirits of the Long-Ago People


Given in recognition of exceptional artistic merit
Doug Hyde, Doll Talk


Given in recognition of exceptional artistic merit
Dean L. Mitchell, Yellowstone Cliff


Given in recognition of exceptional artistic merit
Daniel Smith, Heavy Hitters


Given in recognition of the most outstanding work in cowboy subject matter
Bill Anton, Under a Cowboy Moon


Given in recognition of the most outstanding presentation of three or more works
Bill Anton


Given in recognition of the work most popular with artists participating in the
exhibition and sale

Len Chmiel, Gold Rush, Yuba River


Given in recognition of the work most popular with patrons of the exhibition and sale
Morgan Weistling, Where Stories Were Told


Given in recognition of the work designated for purchase by the Autry National Center
Len Chmiel, Gold Rush, Yuba River


Established by the Autry National Center’s Trustees to recognize an individual for his or her advancement of contemporary Western art
Booth Western Art Museum

Daniel Smith's "Heavy Hitters"

Talk about Collection Factors, it sure doesn't hurt when an artist wins one of these awards.  I think it goes a long way for the artist's legacy and in turn the value of your artwork.  It's a pretty big honor when you think about who these artists are exhibiting with and the competition for the awards.  If you're a fan of watercolors or Dean Mitchell, you have to check out the Dean Mitchell Show at J. Willott Gallery in Palm Desert, CA.

There are some major events coming up soon, so stay tuned for the Western Masters Art Show in Great Falls, MT, (find us in room #292 at the Heritage Inn), The Russell: The sale to benefit the C.M. Russell Museum, Altermann's Auction in Scottsdale, and the Scottsdale Art Auction.  I invite you to contact me if you would like representation at any of these events as there will sure to be great opportunities to add to your collection.  Finally, if you like what you read, share it with your friends and be sure to check out my gallery website:  Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Collection Factors - One Way to Make Your Collection More Valuable

People always ask me what makes one painting more valuable than another, and the simple answer would be "Collection Factors."  "Collection Factors" are components that contribute to the overall value of a piece of art and in turn, your collection.

  • The Artist
  • Quality
  • Supply and Demand
  • Provenance
  • Auction records
  • Awards
  • Shows the artist participates in
  • Price
  • Historical Significance
  • Rarity
  • Condition
  • Gallery Representation
  • Literature: books, magazines, etc.
  • Museum Collections the artist is a part of
  • Museum Exhibitions the work has been included in
  • Time Period
  • Subject Matter
  • Frame
  • Emotional investment or personal background to the work
  • Bullet Holes:  See Dennis Hopper's Warhol Painting
The list can go on, so we can add them as we go.  I think Dennis Hopper's bullet holes is a terrific example of how "Collection Factors" can be dynamic. If there are any you would like to add, please do so in the comments!

I'm not going to say that original artwork is a sure-fire investment; however, is there potential for your collection to appreciate in value?  Absolutely.  There's also just as good a chance you will lose money.  No one wants to hear that, but I think there are ways to minimize that risk.  Original art can be a fantastic asset when you apply a well-rounded strategy in acquiring works for your collection.  We've all heard the old adage, "Buy what you love."  However, if you're going to spend $10,000 on a work of art, are you going to 'buy what you love' or are you going to consider all the variables that make it worth $10,000?  The answer:  you're going to consider all the factors that make it worth $10,000 AND buy what you love.

There's a ton of reasons people collect art, and usually as an asset or investment ranks near the bottom.  It doesn't mean it can't be a good reason, and it shouldn't be considered.  We all know that cars are the worst investment ever, but we still think about the resale value before we purchase something, so when we do sell it or trade it in, we can get 'something' for it.  Just think about Collection Factors next time you're considering acquiring a new piece of artwork, and ask questions about them when you're visiting with your dealer.  If anything, you'll sound even more knowledgeable than you already are.