One of the most interesting dynamics in the art world (to both collectors and the public interested in art) is the perceived value of art. Many factors influence price of artwork, including those directly related to the piece and those more in line with the market in general. Those specific to the actual artwork are:

Attribution

We are very used to identify some master pieces by renowned artists. Who wouldn’t know that the Mona Lisa was painted by Da Vinci? However, it is not always known who painted a picture, especially those from centuries ago. Attribution is an assessment of who was responsible for creating a particular work. Without this basic information, it is almost impossible to set value based on the originality of the work. There are different degrees of certainty, depending on factors such as style and documentary and scientific evidence:

  • By Goya: Shows reasonable certainty about the attribution
  • Attributed to Goya: Intimates a degree of doubt about the authorship of the picture
  • By the Studio of Goya: Means painted by a pupil of the named artist, probably under his direction
  • A Follower of Raphael: Is someone who admired the artist’s style, but was not necessarily a pupil of his.
  • An Imitator of Raphael: Is one who slavishly admired the artist, but may have worked at a much later date

Provenance

As people, work of art has also a past. When buying an artwork, whether by an art auction or through a professional dealer, it is very important to know the history of the ownership. Both museums and art collectors are very careful about this aspect, as there have been cases in which the art works has been stolen for sale purposes, which means you could be involved in very serious legal problems.

Information about the ownership can come from different sources, including contemporary descriptions, inventories of collections, inventory numbers on the paintings and auction sale catalogues.

Size

Against the popular belief, size do matters. Mainly in art, but how come size matters when valuing artworks? One most think “bigger is better” or more expensive or better valuable. Well, sometimes. There are some aspects you must consider:

 

  • Large scale paintings require more materials not only for the artists, but in terms of conservation. In this case, the cost of production will impact of the final value not to mention the extra budget you would need to save for keep the piece in good conditions.
  • Materials on small works might not be a problem in terms of the used quantity when considering the production cost, but the truly relevant is the workforce. That is, the specialized technique used by the artist to achieve extremely carefully details.

Quality

How do experts define the quality in art? Is it measurable? Or is quality in the eye of the beholder? First of all, quality should not be confused with the artistic values for which a piece is considered a work of art. Aesthetics is one thing and quality is another. The latter is related with the conditions in which a piece is or the conservation state, even though it is a work recently produced. In this way, quality must be defined by a restoration and conservation expert, it is not something anyone can value. Some aspect to be considered:

 

  • The current conditions of the artwork: if it is fully complete or broken, o some of his parts are missing. In some cases, especially when talking about art objects, make sure the materials are not rusted or needs to be replaced.
  • Restoration: it is fundamental to know how many restorations the work has undergone or, in some cases, if is completely original and need to be restored.
  • Conservation: it is the final report to set the current conditions of the artwork done by a specialist and set by an official and signed report (see Condition of Artwork)

Subject matter

Subjects in art are closely related with the tendencies of some topics or even with art movements. This aspect may be not as important as the quality of the peace or the attribution, but undoubtedly it plays an important role when valuing a work. Subjects are defined either by the art institutions or the art market. For instance, sometimes museums or gallery are specially interested in trend subjects for the public domain, selecting artists or exhibitions to fulfill this kind of issues: covid, NFT, digital art, black live matters, colonialism, etc. The more the subjects are trending topics, the higher the demand of an art piece.

Condition of Artwork

A condition report is a written and/or electronically filed record that details the condition of a painting and its frame based on a close examination of these objects. When used with photographs and illustrations, the report clearly records the physical condition of the painting and frame at that time. When kept systematically, condition reports document any changes over time. These changes may be caused by: natural aging of sensitive materials, accidental damage, vandalism, infestation, inappropriate display or storage conditions, improper handling or inappropriate packaging for travel, as well as any alteration to the work due to a restoration treatment. A condition survey of a work of art, based on object type, can provide the collector with the means to manage and preserve their collection, especially if the data is stored in a digital format.

Last but no less, it is highly recommended to receive expert advice. None of the aspects listed in this article should be taken for granted. In order to be a professional art collector, it is very important to have specialized advisory and give art the respect it deserves.

Source: Glossary of The National Gallery, London