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
  • Provenance
  • Size
  • Quality
  • Subject matter
  • Condition of Artwork

It is understood that some of these factors are simply a matter of fact; others are subjective, like value within the market and even subject matter. But when comparing two similar pieces (subject matter, artist, or even quality) one important influence is the condition of artwork.

CONDITION OF ARTWORK AS A DETERMINATION OF VALUE

When comparing two similar pieces of art, the work in better condition sells for more. This theory holds true in any buying/selling scenario, whether it is a car, furniture, or a home. When buyers are considering a purchase, they often want to know how much use they will obtain from the item. This may be slightly less accurate in art, with the item in question having few moving parts and less incidences of “wearing out,” but savvy buyers are looking for pieces that maintain their condition—and value.

WHAT IF YOU FIND A PIECE YOU LOVE WHICH IS IN LESS-THAN-IDEAL CONDITION?

Perhaps you have fallen in love with a piece that is in poor condition, either due to the subject matter or being created by an artist whose career you have been following? Before you bid—or buy—that work without considering all the factors influencing the price (see above), step back and take a breath.

Look over the type of damage found on the piece. Is it foxing on paper works or tears in paintings? There are a variety of issues which can plague works, some of which can be repaired, and some of which cannot. Consider the cost of restoration; do you have the knowledge and ability to restore some of the damage to the art, or will a professional restoration company need to be hired?

Inspect the condition from “stem to stern”, looking for evidence of conservation already done. If there has been some work done to the art and still more damage is present, it could be unrepairable. This is a time for an expert opinion, if possible. If you still want the piece, take the costs and time involved in restoration into consideration when bidding or making an offer on the piece.

WHEN “VALUE” IS MORE THAN YOUR PERSONAL ENJOYMENT

 

When purchasing work for your own enjoyment, you may be willing to overlook damage, or feel that money is no concern when restoring the work. However, if you are looking at the work of art as a potential investment, there is more to consider than just aesthetics. How will the item appraise and how much more value will it possibly gain when restored?

Preventative conservation (also known as collection care) describes the simple preservation or maintenance of works of art. Just like cleaning your house, this does not equate to remodeling or performing any type of work outside of normal day-to-day activities (dusting, damp wiping, polishing). Restoration is described as the repair of artworks with the goal of returning them to their original (undamaged) appearance.

Artwork in your possession which has been restored may or may not have increased value. In fact, some collectors insist on original condition and may lose interest if an extensive amount of restoration has been completed on a work. Condition reports are important to provide you (and potential buyers) with a history on the piece. Keeping detailed records on your collection provides you with information to support value, and will also give appraisers additional evidence to warrant a stated value.

CONDITION OF ARTWORK: PERSONAL CHOICE VS. FINANCIAL VALUE

The bottom line when looking at a damaged piece of artwork is your desire to balance your desire to have the work with the financial investment of the piece. An individual choice, the collector needs to choose a work that attracts them, that they may (or may not) want to put time and money into, and the goal in terms of valuation. Understanding that the value is likely to be reduced, and considering that the condition of artwork may be so poor that it may or may not be able to be restored to original (or close to) condition, allows purchasers to make an informed decision.