Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

What Is It Worth? A Guide to Art Valuation and Market Resources

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

What Is It Worth? A Guide to Art Valuation and Market Resources

Article excerpt

"What is It Worth? A Guide to Art Valuation and Market Resources" serves as an introduction to new and mostly free online art auction and market sites and some traditional paper resources that are essential to answer reference questions about art value. These resources are important and affordable to add to the collection and or library guide pages. In addition, a description of art value factors listed in auction records that affect art value, and when and how to obtain a professional art appraisal are included.--Editor

In the past, basic art value research was considered to be somewhat difficult and very time-consuming, especially if the researcher did not have art history coursework and access to more exclusive art auction resources. Today, basic art value research has become easier to perform because many of the art auction records databases that were once only available for an annual subscription are now available free online or require a small fee for a one-day subscription pass. These online auction records databases also include full-color photographs of most of the artworks sold. This is a vast improvement over paper art auction resources used in the past that only included a few images of the most prestigious artworks sold and were not as easy to search and access. While these art auction sites are freely available on the Internet, it should be noted that they are free because they are paid for not only by subscriptions, but also by advertisements from collectors and dealers who advertise their businesses and collecting interests on the sites. Because of these circumstances, this guide was written not only to share key art valuation resources that can be collected and or added to library resource guides, but also to simplify and assist with the art value research process and to provide basic guidelines that librarians can share with their patrons so that they may be better informed of the value of their artwork should they decide to sell. This guide covers these online art auction resources and some key paper signature and monogram reference resources that would be nice to own, but are not required. Fine art in this guide refers to two-dimensional artwork such as painting, prints, drawings, and pastels.

Patrons who want to know the value of an artwork usually bring the artwork into the library or send a digital image via email. Sometimes the patron will just send a description of the artwork that is not adequate information for art value research. As they say "a picture is worth a thousand words," and this is really an understatement when it comes to researching artworks. A picture of the artwork will assist the librarian or patron in the comparison of the subject matter, style, and the artist's signature.


The first step when researching the value of a painting, print or other artwork is to visually examine the work for the signature or monogram of the artist. The artist's name will usually be located in the lower right or sometimes the left corner of the painting. The artist's signature or monogram can be examined under a magnifying glass so that the lettering and the brushstrokes can be easily observed. If the patron has sent a digital image of the artwork, it can be viewed in Adobe Photoshop or other imaging software by using magnify or zoom properties. In Photoshop, choose File > Open > Choose File > View > Zoom In.

If the artist's signature or monogram is found, the process of identifying and researching possible value will be much faster and easier. Look for the artist's last name in the signature references, or their initials in the monogram references.

Artists' Signatures and Monograms: Websites

Arts Signature Dictionary Arts Signature Dictionary offers free signature and a monogram searches. Search for the last name of the artist first. Arts Signature Dictionary contains digital images of actual signed artwork that can be enlarged for better viewing. …

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