Is it worth anything? – obtaining a valuation

From time to time, Zimmerman Art Gallery is approached by people wanting to know the value of a painting or sculpture they possess.

While an art gallery can generally value the works of artists it represents, most commonly people bring to us the works by deceased, unknown or foreign artists. The condition of the works can range from excellent to poor, and there is sometimes little background information other than “it was in my grandma’s house” or “I bought it at a garage sale”.

In most cases, it is unlikely the holder has inherited or chanced upon an important or valuable work. However, sometimes the characteristics of the work – its apparent quality, subject matter, distinguishing marks, provenance or condition - suggest that further inquiry might be worthwhile. In such instances, we recommend seeking the advice of a specialist art valuer.

Why is specialist advice required?
“Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but art valuation requires reason and objectivity.” – New Zealand Fine Art Services

Art valuation is a specialist field, requiring the valuer to research and compare data from multiple sources. Factors to be taken into account include:

-    Importance of the artist
-    Relevance of the particular work, either in the artist’s oeuvre or in art history
-    Rarity (how many similar or related works are already in, or likely to enter, the marketplace)
-    Subject matter (is the subject matter one that generally sells well, or for which the artist is known?)
-    Size and artistic media employed
-    Condition (is the work in the expected condition for its age and provenance?)
-    Provenance (history) of the work, including how it was acquired and where it has “lived”
-    Exhibition and publications in which the work has been displayed, referenced or reproduced
-    Artist’s involvement with the work (was the work executed by or under the personal supervision of the artist, or was the work produced by someone else’s hand?)
-    Prices previously realised in the primary and secondary markets, and market trends
-    Estimated liquidity (how quickly the work is likely to sell)

Who provides art valuation services in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, art valuation services are provided by both auction houses and independent art valuers. Auction houses offering art valuation services include Art+Object, Cordy’s, Dunbar Sloane, and International Art Centre.

Art works must generally be physically seen by the valuer to ensure an accurate assessment, but simple “is it worth anything” appraisals may be made from photographs. It is helpful for the holder of the work to supply as much information as possible about the work when seeking a valuation, including the work’s general condition, how it came into the holder’s possession, and accompanying documentation or receipts.

What does a valuation cost?

Several auction houses are willing to supply verbal appraisals free of charge. However, if the holder of the work requires a written valuation, then charges usually apply. Written valuations may be required for insurance purposes (to verify the value of the items you wish to insure), for divisions of matrimonial or estate property (to ensure that assets are equitably distributed), or to fulfil the financial reporting requirements of art collecting institutions.

Fees vary between valuers, and also according to the number and nature of the items to be valued. Accordingly, it is best to obtain a no obligation quote before engaging a valuation expert.


For further information contact ZIMMERMAN - www.zimmerman.co.nz. - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.