1. Do you love the work of art that you are considering???? Your physic feelings are huge.
I once bought a Frank Benson painting for a wonderful client for 5m that is now worth well over 20m, maybe 35m to a motivated buyer. At the time I thought he was paying too much and asked that he give my entire 5% commission to some of my favorite charities so he would not be mad at me when he found out that he paid too much. Well, I was wrong and he was right even though he was spending more than two times what a Benson ever sold for. So his "gut" is something that crushed my informed wisdom. His instincts rule me now. He always seems to be right.
2. Is it the original, genuine and the best? I am the world authority in a lot of areas but 99.99% of the time I have no idea who an artist is.. Again for the Benson, my client was sold the very best one and it resulted in a big win.
Lately a client has been asking me to collect the work of Domergue for him. It seems that Russians and Greeks are the big collectors and their taste seems to run toward hot but playful women with insane bodies. My problem with this is that most wives are not going to stand for this in their homes so I question the value. But my client has said to go ahead and he has been right so many times in the past on his instincts that I have backed off. And the money being spent is still less than auction results. Anything over 300k I would want to hold back on as that seems to be the top.
Right now for the areas that I know about, I get over 20 auction catalogs every day - 100 a week - 400 a month. I miss a lot and there is no way that I am going to have any awareness of obscure auctions in small towns in Europe.
So this is what "pickers" do. They go to the little auctions, buy and sell it to a bigger dealer who then sells it to an even bigger dealer who marks it up to the retail price. People come to me all the time with things marked up 10, 20 even 50 times that have been bought a week earlier in an obscure venue where I just decided that I would rather play with my children than go to check out. I buy it and add 50% to 100% and do fine. But that doesn't mean it doesnt bother me. It does.
The downside of the minor auction venues is that this is the way that dealers (including me) dump things that they feel are second rate or that have been restored too much. These auction houses "conditions of sale" boilerplate, legal rules are brutal. Basically if you bid for it and get it, that's it. You are stuck. This is why there are no major German, Austrian, Swiss auction houses. Too much of what they have is heavily restored, fake or junky and they stick people with third rate material. I dont even LOOK at their catalogs anymore it is so bad. In the end the only auction houses that are straight are Sothebys and then Christies. The thrid best one - Bonhams - is not even 50% as good. But you pay a huge premium to buy at Sothebys and Christies because everyone else has figured this out and you have real competition most of the time because these catalogs are what rich people read. And Sothebys stands behind what they sell. I know this for a fact because this year they made a mistake with some jewelry that I bought for my wife and we were made whole very quickly. It was incredible. And it was for $850,000. Now that is a lot of money to keep a client happy. No other auction house in the world is even close to this kind of honesty, care and professionalism.
The only area where I will not represent my clients is in contemporary art which is completely manipulated and with an impossible and brutal resale market. The stuff if truly worthless and people spend millions, even tens of millions. The people behind this have gamed the whole system and have made billions from it. The IRS knows all about this and is doing everything they can to stop what is going on. But the lawyers for the dealers have figured out a way to keep them at bay.
I am incredibly jealous about the towering success of these men and women whose understanding of human nature buries Sigmund Freud's.
Hope you enjoyed this peak into the art world!!!!