Let’s Make a Deal….
By F. Lennox Campello
Let’s Make a Deal….
One of the benefits of living in this amazing age of great technology and nanoseconds-fast communications is how easy it is for someone to find you in Al Gore’s Internet. With that easiness come all kinds of things associated with art, including how easy it is for a collector or their descendants to “find” you decades after they purchased one of your works of art.
To me, getting an email with an image and a description of how they got that piece of art – sometimes the story itself is worth the time travel backwards – is like finding an old friend that you created and now has returned… or is attempting to.
Sometimes the collector is interested in selling or deaccessioning the artwork – more often than not it is the children of the original buyer, who may have inherited the artwork after mom or dad passed away.
In any event, the issue is that they have several of your pieces and they want your help in selling them somewhere/somehow.
What to do? What not to do?
The second one is easy: never, ever take the artwork back to try to sell it for them – unless you’ve already got a “new” buyer lined up ahead of time who only wants your vintage work from 1979.
What to do?
In the nicest possible way thank the collector for supporting your career through the years, and make the following recommendations to him or her to do the following – I repeat – have THEM do it… not you:
Auction Houses – There are hundreds of auction houses in the United State alone which sell art – while most of them only deal with big name art only (Picasso, Matisse, Campello…), there are also many which accept most original artwork on consignment for their next auctions. All of them have an online submission process, where they generally want to know the basics of the work being offered (title, year, medium, size), the provenance, plus an image of the front and back.
I’d recommend to the person to formulate a strategy starting at the top of the auction world food chain (Sotheby’s, Christie’s, etc.) and then work way down. Nearly all the auction houses in the world are listed and available for proposed auction lots at http://www.invaluable.com and/or http://www.liveauctioneers.com – It’s generally free to do this submission review process, until the artwork sells – Make sure that your collector reviews all the associated costs, as most auction houses generally charge both the buyer and the seller a percentage of the final hammer price – in other words you do not pay anything UNLESS the work sells.
This is good both for the seller (your former collector), as he or she may get something (better than nothing) for the artwork… and for you (the artist), as it starts putting your name out in the secondary art market.
Expect really, really low prices at these auctions (unless you’re lucky enough to have to bidders in a bidding war with each other).
Option two is for your collector to work via an online art sale locations – sites such as http://www.artsy.net also sell artwork online, but generally only through a gallery, so the former collector need to find a gallery willing to put your work online and sell for a commission – not an easy task for an emerging artist’s works. There are several of these sites online… as a last resort, your collector can also try Facebook Marketplace and/or EBay.
The last option is my favorite: donate the artwork.
Your collector can also donate the work to a museum and/or university or college. While this is a donation, rather than sale, it does generally have generous tax write-off benefits, as usually one can deduct the full current value of the work from income taxes, but make sure to advise your collector to consult with their tax professional to find the most current laws.
This has the benefit of (a) getting them a tax write-off, and (b) getting your work into a small museum or a university’s collection. The smaller the college the more likely they’d be in accepting a donation of artwork for their permanent collection.
This latter one actually happened to me, and one of my super early (1970s) series of works in which I use the poor enslaved island of Cuba as the focus of the works (titled imaginatively as “The Cuba Series”) ended up a few years ago in the collection of American University thanks to a generous collector from New Jersey who donated the work – which he acquired in 1978 or so – to the University.
More recently, a similar scenario happened, where another collector (this time a former school mate of mine who had acquired a work from the same Cuba series when I was a student at the School of Art at the University of Washington in Seattle between 1977-1981) passed away and her son approached me for advice on how to donate the work to his mother’s undergraduate alma mater.
As a result, the work is now in the permanent collection of Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina!