Le Voyage de Louis Vuitton

Grace Harlow, MA

Associate Fine Art Appraiser

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The Louis Vuitton (LV) exhibition Volez, Voguez, Voyagez, or “Fly, Sail, Travel,” is an engaging retelling of the brand’s one hundred and sixty-year-old history and introduces visitors to the founders, artists, and designers who created the brand and who are bringing Louis Vuitton into the future. Curated by Olivier Saillard of the Musée Galliera in Paris and designed by Canadian opera director Robert Carsen, the exhibition presents objects and documents from Louis Vuitton’s as well as other archives, both public and private.

Volez, Voguez, Voyagez is a refreshing example of a brand-led exhibition that does not fall victim to pitfalls common to this genre. Other shows tend to lack narrative diversity, and themes are communicated exclusively through the perspective of the brand, which is expected and frankly uninspiring. Brand-led shows often focus on mythology and taxonomy, where objects are displayed within set categories and sections---women’s wear, accessories, menswear etc.---a structure that often falls flat and fails to make an impact.  

The LV exhibition avoids these clichés and presents a thoughtfully designed space with measured narratives running throughout. Saillard, an expert curator of fashion exhibitions, has cleverly positioned the stars---LV trunks and bags---to act in the show as they do in real life, as accessories and symbols of exciting, luxurious lifestyles. A memorable room houses a replica train carriage, à la the Orient Express, with scenery flashing by in flat-screen windows. Louis Vuitton cases and bags sit on baggage racks and along the floor. On the other side of the carriage are replica hotel stickers and baggage tags from the LV family collection. Thus, though the core of the exhibition traces the company’s history as one of the world’s great luggage brands, the objects included tell stories instead of merely being placed on display.

This narrative structure is the real centerpiece around which the exhibition is built. Volez, Voguez, Voyagez is an interesting meditation on the ongoing dialogue between the brand and the changing cultures and technologies of human travel.

Changing Environments in the Global Art Market

Grace Harlow, MA

Associate Fine Art Appraiser

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During a lecture on the changing environments of the global art market, Evan Beard, a National Art Services Executive with the U.S. Trust, shared an interesting statistic: 60% of lots offered in this past weeks contemporary evening sales at Christie's and Sotheby's were backed by guarantees. 

The statistic is at first surprising considering that the use of such a practice, where auction houses or a third-party will offer sellers a guaranteed minimum price for an artwork to entice consignments, is a relatively new and sometimes controversial strategy.  

However, the increasing use of and reliance on guarantees perhaps highlights the sizeable shift in collecting practices and motivation within the fine art market. 

For years connoisseurs and aesthetes, who spent considerable time training their eye to discern quality and purchased art for emotional and aesthetic reasons, dominated the collecting industry. Now, Beard suggests that these individuals are increasingly superseded by trophy hunters and enterprising collectors, who purchase works from in-demand artists and quickly resell them at a hoped-for substantial profit or amass large collections that are then exhibited in purpose-built museums (Eli Broad and Christian Boros come to mind). 

The rise of so-called 'art flippers,' private billionaire art museums, and third-party guarantors speaks to the increased overall global wealth and can be possibly explained by a phenomenon known as 'the wealth effect,' where individuals with expansive disposable income are spending more money as their assets increase. 

It seems that collectors are becoming more conscious of art not only for its aesthetic return but also its financial possibilities as an investment tool. Where previously there was no real emphasis on art banking, now the U.S. Trust currently holds around thirteen billion dollars from art lending according to Mr. Beard. Art is no longer just a form of social and cultural capital but now functions as a form of currency used to unlock capital. 

The shift in importance from asthetic to more financial concerns within the art market is important for appraisers to understand. Collectors now operate under a different psychology with a new set of motivations. Being aware not only of cghanging market conditions and trends, but the reasons why these evolutions occur will allow appraisers to better communicate and ultimately manage their clients' expectations. 

The American Art Fair

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald


Far more visually enchanting and educationally enlightening is the American Art Fair at the Far East Bohemian Hall that’s up until Wednesday. The emphasis this year, either inadvertent or deliberate, is on women artists, a few well recognized, more obscure or little known until this venue.

Collectors have become so dazzled by so much overpriced second and third-rate art (but by artists with big reputations) that they fail to see first-rate material that lies just at their feet, or rather, on the walls just below their feet. There were a couple of over the moon million plus paintings, but most seemed accessible in the below $100,000, even under $50,000 range. And they were handsome, well-executed works that no one who was not a trained draughtsman could have gotten away with.

American Art has been in the doldrums for the last several years, along with American furniture, silver, and decorative art. This exhibition injects a bit of vigor into that market. It had much that drew questions from even experienced collectors and that’s very promising, and there was a feeling of energy over all three floors of the show, something I haven’ t felt for the last three years. The floors were more crowded, but I didn’t see nearly as much of the crowds that clog the halls of Sotheby’s and Christie’s for contemporary art viewings.

There were unknown artists who had been in the famed Armory Show and who became known this weekend; and women artists, ignored until now, who were featured. A very few are still alive to enjoy their rediscovery; most never lived to enjoy it.

If you can, there’s an excellent free catalog on the 5th Floor of the exhibition, at Avery Gallery, called “American Women Artists 1860-1960.” Try it, you’ll like it. Those women may be gone, but they won’t be forgotten anymore.




Notes from the President: The Secondary Market Then and Now

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald


Each of us finds a way to relax during fall’s frantic art weeks; some eat, some drink, some watch Netflix, some go to the movies, some do what some like to do. I retreat into the past.

Just now I reached blindly into the cabinet in my office with annual auction catalogs. Sotheby’s "Review of 1961-62" and Christie’s “Review of the Year 1962-63” came into my hands. What was happening well over 50 years ago in the art world? These would be all non-American sales.

Sotheby’s London sold Honore Daumier’s "Third Class Carriage," an iconic image, for just a trifle over $100,000. The approximately 10 x 13-inch painting on panel was from the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Anson Beard of New York. In the upcoming sale at Sotheby’s New York this week there is an approximately 8 x 8-inch ink, ink wash and conte crayon drawing, "Avant l'audience," from the Collection of Samuel & Ethel Lefrak that is estimated at $100-150,000.

Years ago it was sometimes estimated that the ratio of the value of painting to drawing by the same artist was 4 to 1. Anyway, that’s no longer relevant since it has been 55 years hence and the drawing of two kneeling figures that might have been valued between $2,000 -3,000 in 1961.

A figure on square steps by Henry, 7 ¼ x 9 ¼, bronze, was auctioned off at Christie’s in 62-63 for $7,000 back then, while in the upcoming sale a smaller seated mother and child, 5 1/4 in height, is estimated (again) for $100-150,000.  Both are editioned pieces.

And look what one could get at Christie’s in those years for well under $3,000; a giltwood & inlaid tortoiseshell center table, 57 inches wide x 34 ½ deep, purchased by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for $2,793.

At first glance, I thought the André Derain “Pool of  London” Fauvist watercolor and bodycolor had sold for $12 million, but of course, that couldn’t have been true, not then. The about 20 x 20 signed work actually received $12,632 – that’s thousands – at Christie's.

"The Pool of London," André Derain

"The Pool of London," André Derain

During 1962-63 Christie’s total sales were $10,500,000, a relatively dramatic increase of $700,000 over the previous year. It was noted in the catalog that there had been a noted shortage of Old Master paintings indicating that the collectors’ funds had increased for what was available.In that year’s drawing sale a caricature of an old man by Leonardo da Vinci, 4 ¼ x 4 ¼, brought $42,630, while Tintoretto’s “Christ at the Pool of Bethesda" sold for $122,735. That was really big money in that era.

Sotheby’s catalog spent many paragraphs discussing the stability of the art market at this time, citing the fact that the art market used to react immediately to stock market, movements, either up or down, but this year it appeared not to have happened. Consignments from the U.S. seemed to help. One, Amedeo Modigliani’s “L’Homme Au Verre De Vin,” painted circa 1918 and about 36 x 21 realized $103,000. I could not help but note that not all work did as well as the auctioneer insisted. Henri Matisse’s "Femme a l’Ombrelle Verte," a beautiful work from 1920, Nice, and from the Collection of W. Somerset Maugham, Esq., 27 x 22, brought only $89,600.

It is a little disconcerting to rifle through these old catalogs and see the magnificent works available in those days, knowing the current prices for works half as fine. I don’t know why I wrote that it was relaxing. It isn’t at all.


Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Auction Preview

Edward Orlowski, MA 

Associate Fine Art Appraiser

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At the auction house contemporary viewings over the weekend there were some strong lots – available to those willing and able to pay. It will be interesting to see if some of the high prices will scare off buyers in this increasingly uncertain market.

One star lot was Mark Rothko’s Saffron from 1957,  a pivotal year. With fields of deep ochres and blood orange and a satisfying off-white stripe cutting across the center, the work held an incredible presence placed at the end of a hall, pulling you into it like a vortex. It’s  69 x 53.75, estimated at a modest $25 – 35 million.

Not to be missed is Calder’s Calderoulette, created from brass, wire, and thread, a whimsical construction of butterflies and bumblebees of twisted wire that demonstrates the artist’s engineering and jewelry-making skills. From 1941, it is estimated at $3.2 – 3.8 million.

Also on view in a shrine-like invention were three Philip Guston paintings that paid homage to his representative work of the 60s and early 70s, with price ranges in the mid-six figures.

Of course, I must mention Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi because I found it somewhat disturbing when viewed it at Christie’s. This is particularly the case of certain apparently overcleaned areas of the work, and the figure’s seemingly flattened chest, as well as the superficiality of the ringlets of hair.

It is difficult to be displeased by any work to which Leonardo’s hand has been applied, so it will be interesting to see who the ultimate purchaser is – a museum or a private collector. That may tell us something.

Furniture and the Domestic Interior: 1500-1915

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Grace Harlow, MA 

Fine & Decorative Art Appraiser


For many years, the decorative arts were not considered worthy of serious study. There were few dedicated academic programs for decorative arts and no real interest in promoting wider access and public engagement through museum exhibitions.

The Furniture History Society (FHS), founded in 1964, is working to rectify this narrative and promotes the scholarship and appreciation of historical furniture. Originally based in London, the FHS has now branched out internationally and developed a New York chapter, specifically devoted to early-stage development, where young scholars have the opportunity to learn from established experts and share knowledge with each other.

Last Friday, the FHS hosted a symposium at the Frick Collection, entitled “Furniture and the Domestic Interior: 1500-1915” where young scholars from around the world presented on furniture and decorative arts.

Interestingly, the focus of the symposium centered on objects and the interior space they occupied. My experience with decorative arts has been gleaned primarily from studying furniture and objects within a museum setting, where their formal and decorative properties take precedence to their overall context. It has been my experience that their original placement within a given interior space is often understated or omitted.

And while some presenters concentrated on specific objects and their role in communicating certain mores of their respective cultures and periods, the symposium was most successful when the speaker focused not only on an object, but also the interior space it inhabited.

A particular highlight included a presentation on the “camerella:” a novel piece of furniture introduced in mid-17th century Tuscany. A rectangular curtained structure, the camerella isolated the bed from the rest of the room and introduced a physical object to denote private and public spheres.  This invention transformed not only the Florentine bedchamber but influenced modern-day bedrooms as well.

Having an intimate knowledge of a decorative art object, including its original function and placement, is paramount when determining the importance and ultimately value, and the FHS’s inaugural education program was a welcome addition to my expanding knowledge of decorative arts and furniture.


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Case Study: The Bowes Collection 


At the opening of The Furniture History Society’s symposium, Ph.D. candidate Simon Spier spoke about the John and Josephine Bowes collection of fine art and Second Empire furniture.

The Bowes envisioned creating a purpose-built museum to house their collection, but after their deaths, curators found the task of integrating the furniture with their fine art to be arduous. Mrs. Bowes’ penchant for Second Empire furnishings, which were considered in vogue and highly fashionable at the time she purchased them, were deemed inferior quality, particularly in relation to the famed Wallis Collection and the John Jones Collection at the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Bowes’ collection is a perfect case study that demonstrates the sometimes difficult transition of decorative arts and furniture from private collections to the public sphere. What is often thought important and rare by a collector may not always be deemed as such by an institution or the art and antiques market.

While many clients believe their objects are both unique and extremely valuable, it is an appraiser’s job to separate fact from fiction. Something that once was sought after and in fashion may not hold the same status today. Therefore, it is always important to continuously acquire knowledge and keep abreast of changing market taste.


N.Y. 1939 A World's Fair, Part II

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald 



I recently wrote about the Old Masters that mattered at the famous World’s Fair of 1939. Now it’s time for the Contemporaries, that is, the contemporary artworks of 1939.

In a survey of the collection of living artists whose work was represented at this international exposition, I realized that there were far more names I didn’t recognize than I did. In order to represent the work of an entire nation, regional committees were appointed throughout the country and specific numbers allotted for the number of works that could be accepted. Then a committee of nine was appointed to represent the conservative, middle ground and radical groups, In the end about 25,000 works of art were viewed by the various juries and 1,200 finally selected for exhibition. Let’s see who made the cut.

I suppose that Francis Criss, New York, whose name I know well, and who was resented by “Fascism” was among the radicals, while Michele A. Carfarelli, from New York, showing “Winter, Teaneck,” was among the conservatives. The rest became a guessing game because it is difficult to view art of its time through the eyes of 78 years later. I know what became of artists at the fair like Jack Levine and Joe Jones, Hayley Lever and Max Weber, but what of Jack Wiboltt of California, Ethel Spears of Illinois, Gordon Peers of Rhode Island, Charlotte Millis of Minnesota and Richard Correll of Washington?

Think of the tedious process that it took for the artist to finally achieve a spot in the galleries of the 1939 World’s Fair. Those artists probably thought this exposure would make their careers. Perhaps for some it did, but it made me think that the market eventually sorts out who will be recognized and who will remain  in Minnesota or Illinois.

Thoughts on Patronage and Collecting: Then and Now

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald 


One of the fascinating aspects of being a professional in the Art World is that you get invited to a lot of events at organizations you have never heard of before but which often have considerable followings. And then you feel “out of it” because you’ve never heard of them before, but also “in” because now you have.

Last Friday I attend the National Symposium of Collectors For Connoisseurship, held at the Sacerdote Auditorium of the Uris Center at the Metropolitan Museum. Titled Patronage and Collecting: Then & Now, I was addressed by curators at the MET, the Frick and the Morgan Library, followed by a panel of speakers representing different aspects of the market.  Perhaps in an audience of diverse backgrounds different people took away different messages, but the main one seemed to me was that collectors in the past were often deeply involved in the intellectual and aesthetic aspects of their collections, while today’s collector may be seduced by branding and name recognition.

Will brick & mortar galleries continue as they have or will art fairs and online sales take over? We were all interested in that question which, of course, cannot be resolved in one symposium or even in 50, which I am certain will probably occur in the next year. What makes it so necessary for people to keep chewing over the same question so often without reaching for a resolution? Sort of like the talk talk talk re the current plethora of stories about abuse of women in business. A thousand stories so far, but haven’t heard one suggestion about a real solution.


N.Y. 1939 A World's Fair, Part I

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald 


Sometimes, only sometimes, in the middle of working on some tedious factual report on art values that has dulled my mind to the point of bringing on a torpor so intense I feel my shoulders slump under its crush, that I check the office library to see if I can remember why I am participating in the business of art.

Not looking, one hand into the stacks, I blindly plucked the Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800 from the Masterpieces of Art, New York World’s Fair, May to October, 1939. My joy was caffeinated by just touching the fragile paperbound blue and white catalogue compiled by George Henry McCall under the editorship of the very famous William R. Valentiner with whom this office had a tenuous connection. My much deceased mentor, James St. Lawrence O’Toole, had been a protégé of Valentiner, so I had been the occasional beneficiary of historical trickles from the deep well of the master’s knowledge.

I love these old catalogs with their lists of famed committee collectors, long gone publishing houses, of lucky ladies who used their inherited wealth wisely, and lenders who would never have spoken a sentence in which “art” and “investment” appeared together before the period. The 1939 World’s Fair was a very important one, and lenders included the Louvre, the National Gallery of London, and the Royal Museum of Antwerp, as well as nearly every famous name in American philanthropy of the time.

The paintings of the artists participating (It wasn’t their choice since they were all dead) reflects contemporary era collectors brought to the table, in this case, the fair, indicating the taste of the day, showing how fast fashion changes. After all, 78 years difference really isn’t so great when you think in terms of centuries of art.

There was an extraordinary accounting of Albrecht Durers; 32 paintings, works on paper and prints, and 14 paintings by Sir Antony Van Dyck, seven works by Thomas Gainsborough at a time when grandiose English portraiture was still very fashionable. Mr. O’Toole once told me that in its heyday he and another dealer traveled by car through the Midwest selling anonymous English portraits to wealthy but obscure families who seemed comforted by these lavishly dressed gentry on their walls, as if the painted past could magically become their own just be their sheer presence.

Nineteen Rembrandts could be seen at the Fair, a testament to the endurance of genius, although there were quite a few names so buried in history that only their biographers might recognize them. What seemed far-seeing was the inclusion of two complex compositions by Hercules Seghers, a little known Dutch 16th/17th century artist who recently was rediscovered by the exhibition of his extraordinary paintings at the Metropolitan Museum.

The exhibition wasn’t entirely male-made; Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, representing the entire artistic population of women artists, made it with Mme. Grant, later Princesse de Talleyrand. And while there were a few scattered landscapes, primarily late 17th and 18th century, the greater proportion of the art at the 1939 World’s Fair was of the human figure in its many guises, so that those who visited the artworks of this memorable event were people looking at people, across time and taste, 500 years of art. In 2439, if man survives that long, and if there is such a thing as art remaining, and if there are printed or even digital catalogs to review, what will have been preserved, for instance and just out of curiousity,  of this century’s greatest works of art?

'TRAFFICKED' Premiere at the United Nations

Elin Lake-Ewald 


The massive assembly room was lit up last night for the premiere of “Trafficked” a moving film about the millions of a virtual, worldwide slave population that lives in the underbelly of this planet. In the United States alone there are over 100,000 women and children who are treated as non-humans, unprotected and unseen by law enforcement. Voices of foreign ambassadors and many in the film world called out for awareness and help, and blue heart pins were passed out so that participants could demonstrate support.

Among the Hollywood contingent were Patrick Ewald, CEO of Epic Pictures, and film distributor for Trafficking, and brotherJake Ewald, independent video producer.

Among the Hollywood contingent were Patrick Ewald, CEO of Epic Pictures, and film distributor for Trafficking, and brotherJake Ewald, independent video producer.

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Louise Bourgeois at the MoMA, For Whom are Exhibitions Created? 

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald 


For Louise Bourgeois, whose mother was a tapestry restorer,, sewing and spinning a web were intertwined

For Louise Bourgeois, whose mother was a tapestry restorer,, sewing and spinning a web were intertwined

Not sure if it’s okay to comment on an exhibition that I spent little more than an hour visiting, but my initial reaction to the Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the MoMA was sort of a letdown. I’ve been up and down about her work over the years, but not certain that this show did much on the upscale side. 

The emphasis on prints and drawings, with an interspersing of small sculptures and a giant spider in the Atrium, did not inspire so much as diminish my feelings, in reverse of my reaction to her Guggenheim retrospective in 2008.

For whom are these exhibitions created? Signage along the way would indicate the audience addressed is that of the latently curious, who truly want to understand but who will not be greatly enlightened by what they read. Perhaps the exit sign should provide a list of books and articles that anyone who is truly interested in the work of the artist might visit. Bourgeois led a long artistic life and she has much to tell us, but not today.

Taking in Chelsea

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald


There is no down time for New York’s art scene. Even before the intense art season opens, meandering through Chelsea brought sightings of shows that make its inconvenient locale (west-siders might disagree) well worth the commute across town.

Last Saturday lots of galleries were in the process of setting up, except for Sikkema Jenkins where the Kara Walker exhibition was so crowded an alternate visit was necessary. It was still crowded when I returned on Tuesday, but there was better visibility with fewer art enthusiasts huddled around the work.

Louise Fishman at Cheim & Read drew fans for this veteran of the AbEx generation, as did her contemporary Yvonne Thomas at Berry Campbell. Peter Saul at Mary Boone didn’t even try to mask his emotions when it comes to President Trump. It was all out there in riotous paint, sort of like being smacked in the face by a dead duck.

I had never been to Production at Art & Commerce. On display was a huge two-floor exhibition of rather marvelous photographs, past and present. Another crowd pleaser was Maya Lin’s Ebb & Flow presentation with its crazy rows of glass beads all over the gallery. Lisson Gallery exhibited an important retrospective of Leon Polk Smith. The 1960’s Minimalist paintings/ sculptures shaped into vivid images appeared just as fresh as if they had come out of his studio today.

What I did observe of the Chelsea scene reminded me of the beginning of the end of days of SoHo. An influx of highly commercial galleries that one would not have associated with “Chelsea” prior to their arrival.

More to come later…

Two Days of Art in Portland, ME

A Review of 'A New American Sculpture: Lachaise, Laurent, Nadelman, and Zorach'

When a friend suggested at the conclusion of a trip that I join her and two other art collectors touring Maine museums I thought first of lobsters, and said yes to two days in Portland. I sincerely did enjoy the art – and the lobsters.  Lachaise, Laurent, Nadelman and Zorach is the main exhibition at the four-story Portland Museum, and it was worth the one-hour flight to see the work of the four sculptors, immigrants who became decades long friends. The photos tell their story. What I did miss were Zorach’s bronze animals. This show was about human forms, moving through space, dancing, and loving.

Dorthea & Leo Rabkin Foundation 

At the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation (www.rabkinfoundation.org) its Executive Director Susan Larsen showed us work by Leo that probably has never been exhibited before, prescient forms that predated a good deal of contemporary sculpture. This little-known foundation has produced a major coup in the art world by initiating a new grant program for visual art journalists, writers who don’t get a lot of publicity but who serve an important role in the arts. Grants of $50,000 each went to eight writers: Phong Bui, Charles Desmarais, Bob Keyes, Jason Farago, Jeff Huebner, Carolina Miranda, Christina Rees, and Chris Vitiello.

On View at the Maine College of Art: 

The last stop was to the Institute of Contemporary Art at the Maine College of Art for a painting exhibition of both abstract and figurative works by artists from around the nation. And then we each independently revisited the Portland Museum – the exhibition was that good. I think I’d like to return to Portland very soon.

Exhibition Review: Relative Value systems in the renaissance era

Relative Value: The Cost of Art in the Northern Renaissance 

On view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

62 masterpieces of varying media and function that invite the examination of historical worth and relative value systems of the era 

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt   Follower of Quentin Metsys (Netherlandish, mid-16th century) and Master of the Liège Disciples at Emmaus (Netherlandish, active mid-16th century), ca. 1540

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Follower of Quentin Metsys (Netherlandish, mid-16th century) and Master of the Liège Disciples at Emmaus (Netherlandish, active mid-16th century), ca. 1540

The most original show at the MET these days is on the first floor – back of the building.

Maybe the curators have tired of listening to museum-goers speculate out loud how much a particular painting or ivory object is worth.

Okay, if that’s what they’re interested it let’s give it to them, but let’s not make it too easy or too obvious. We will inform them as to what a particular artwork is worth in the equivalent of a coin of the realm in the 16th-17th centuries. Mostly in cow power.

The need to equate art with money – or what the Northern Renaissance collectors would pay for a precious item in terms of what was of approximately the same value in more mundane objects – that’s the crux of the show and more than well worth the visit.

How much is that gorgeous goblet worth, that gold chalice with intricately sculpted and inch high jeweled and elaborately costumed figures so meticulously carved that each finger is individually rendered? I’d say 255 cows. And that crystal bird from Nuremberg with ruby eyes? That’s 275 cows and worth every moo. Suppose a baron wanted a woodcut by Albrecht Dürer for his wall (although it was probably kept in an album in those days), he’d only have to come up with half a cow in payment. Not sure how that worked. Another object that’s not much more than a commoner’s earthenware vessel with a decorative lead glaze would have been an eighth of the value of a cow. Would that include prime ribs?

I like the idea of a new approach to arousing interest in the many gorgeous, but often overlooked objects in this treasure chest of a museum. The MET has created another way of showing us that there is so much of such interest within its metaphorical vaults that it isn’t absolutely necessary to bring in objects from elsewhere to excite the viewers. I would like to give my thanks to the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts and the curator(s) of the exhibition and the effort he/she made to think beyond the obvious and arouse new interest in old things that the Met owns. And, of course, for the audiences of 2017, it had to be about value – or do I mean price?

Source: otoole-ewald.com/blog/valuation

Art appraisal & Conservation

Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald addresses the most frequently posed questions concerning Conservation:

What is the difference between conservation and restoration?

  • Conservation is the process of controlling the environment around an object to slow its decay
  • Restoration procedures seek to return the object to its original condition, and preferably, its original usage.

For instance, a textile 19th-century American quilt that appears age darkened and sagging on its hanging apparatus may need only professional washing and backing to brighten up the cloth and alleviate the strain of hanging on the wall. This is considered conservation since there will be no alteration to any portion of the textile.

If on the other hand, the quilt displays signs of extensive moth damage and small sections must be replaced or repaired, the repair work is considered restoration. There will have been one or more pairs of hands, other than those of the original maker, that have worked on the quilt.

How to find the “right” conservator?

Our response: The best way to choose a conservator is to ask more questions. For instance, ask a professional you may hire for the job:

  1. What type of training he or she has had to perform this task
  2. The length of his or her professional experience
  3. If conservation is the focus of work or do they wear many hats, such as appraising, dealing, etc. 
  4. Experience in working with the kind of object for which the client seeks help
  5. Membership in professional associations having a code of ethics 
  6. References and previous clients
  7. Availability for the assignment and hourly fees
  8. Responsibility for insuring an item, conservator or client
  9. Arranging for transportation, conservator or client
  10.  If an appraisal of the item is required before restoration begins

What should the client expect from the conservator?

  1. Personal examination of the object prior to suggested treatment
  2. Cost of the treatment and time frame
  3. Documentation should be provided following the completion of treatment, including both written and photographic records
  4. Disclosure of risk involved in undertaking restoration or conservation
  5. Information as to cost of transporting artwork and who is responsible, client or conservator

How do you find a professional conservator?

  1. A recommendation from someone who has used the conservator with successful results with the same type of object
  2. Contact with local museums for recommended practitioners
  3. Request that the artist, if living, restore the work of art. However, since the artist has rarely had conservation training, technical problems may arise from going this route.
  4. Contact with The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and FAIC Conservation Services Referral System

AIC is the national non-profit organization of conservation professionals. There is a Conservation Services System (CSRS), but the inclusion of a conservator’s name on the list does not imply professional endorsement since the list is created from information provided by AIC members and has not been verified further. The conservators are grouped according to categories of Fellow, Professional, Associate, or Associate that reflect varying levels of experience, professionalism, and professional recognition. 

How to prevent problems in conservation?

  1. Select a conservator who specializes in either painting or ceramics, paper or three-dimensional objects, not all of them. A jack of all trades in this field is invariably a master of none.
  2. If an appraiser provides a report that recommends restoration, the client should be provided with the name and contact numbers of the conservator, as well as professional treatment proposal and direct cost. The client should be able to deal directly with the conservator.
  3. Avoid having the conservator express an opinion about loss in value following restoration since this is within the province of the appraiser, not a conservator. It is a normal reaction for a conservator to believe the results of his or her work will do wonders for a damaged piece; an appraiser may take a less subjective viewpoint. For instance, damage to the paint layer of a monochromatic painting, such as those by Yves Klein, Brice Marden, Ellsworth Kelly or Robert Mangold is difficult to inpaint or compensate and will always reflect light differently than the untouched portion when viewed from an oblique angle.
  4. Always disclose restoration. If a sale is considered in the future, it is best to hold on to the conservation report to pass on to the potential purchaser who may elect to bring in his own conservator to look at the artwork prior to purchase. Full disclosure is the only ethical, and reputation-safe, procedure for either dealer of collector.

Essentials for Conservation Framing

  1. Have the framer use recommended methods and materials for conservation framing, matted with acid-free buffered mats and backboards, and with Japanese paper hinges held in place with cooked starch paste.
  2. Separate artwork from glass either with proper matting or a fillet. 
  3. Use glass or acrylic glazing materials over artwork to protect against environmental elements. Acrylics should not be used for charcoals, pastels or chalk drawings since they can striate static electricity.

Selected Conservation Terms

  • Abraded: Loss of media and/ or paper fibers caused by friction
  • Acid: A substance with a pH below 7.0 that weaken cellulose in paper, board, and cloth
  • Alkaline: Substances with a pH above 7.0 that may be added to materials to neutralize acids
  • Buckling: Soft random distortions of the support
  • De-acidifications: Chemical treatment that neutralizes acid in paper and deposits and alkaline buffer
  • Faded: Loss of color
  • Fill: Replacement of lost support material
  • Foxing: Yellow/ brown circular staining of paper
  • Fugitive: Unstable media or color
  • Inherent Vice: Material of method of construction in an art object that causes or aids deterioration of the object
  • Mat Burn: Darkening of support caused by contact with acidic vapors
  • Neutral: Having a pH of 7.0, neither acid nor alkaline
  • Preservation: Activities associated with maintaining materials for use, either in original form or some other format
  • Reversibility: Ability to undo a process or treatment with no change to object
  • Secondary Support: Mounting support, stretcher, backing or backboard
  • Skinning: Abrasion where thin layer of support surface has been removed
  • Surface Cleaning: Removal of accretions by mechanical means


Laura Stirton Aust, ARTcare Inc.,

Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works

Thompson, Tatyana M., “Dilemmas of Compensation in Contemporary Art, Western Association for Art Conservation Annual Meeting 1993, pp 29-32

Case Studies in files of O’Toole-Ewald Art Associates, Inc., New York

Erik Paol's Thoughts on Art Basel 2017

Erik Paol is a Certified Appraiser 17th - 20th century Fine Art. Has held positions at auctioneers Van Ham, Cologne; Dorotheum, Vienna; Bonhams, London. Expertise in complex litigation & finance, public domain & cultural heritage, artists' estates. Specialization in corporate collections and large volumes appraisals. 

Not having been to the fair for a few years (perhaps a bit cooled-down), I was glad to enjoy the fair again thanks to some really inspiring exhibits and some good shows at Beyeler and Tinguely:

1.  Shame on me; haven’t noticed this lamp earlier. But it takes the satellite-fair Design Miami in hall #1 in order to find out that Dutch Studio Drift sells this object in the US for already over a decade now! Real dandelion-seeds filter the harsh LED-light, seen at Carpenters Workshop Gallery/ London.

Art appraisal

2.  A major sale at Design Miami was this impressive dining table and ten chairs (1960) by Brazilian designer Joaquim Tenreiro, sold by R & Company/New York to a Dutch buyer.  

art appraisal 00.jpg

3.  Sorry, my chauvinism doesn’t stop here; I was particularly happy to see that 1960’s and 1970’s Conceptual Art from Holland was doing great; this is a still from the 4 minutes 16mm movie Nightfall (1971) by Bas Jan Ader, seen at Metro Pictures/New York (digital edition of three, €120k).  

4.  Yes, another example of Dutch Conceptual Art; a photo collage by Jan Dibbets titled Big Comet (1973), seen in hal #2 at Peter Freeman Inc./New York:

But here stops the Dutch promotion. As appraisers, I think, it is wise to ask as many prices as possible. A few years ago, my partners and I appraised a collection that also contained a nice series of Date Paintings by On Kawara.
Conclusion; that it’s about time to re-assess the old values for these two paintings.  
They were offered at €1,2m each, illustrating the strength of Conceptual Art.

What I perhaps missed in the past and absolutely enjoyed this year’s show were plenty of examples of timeless eclecticism:

5.  For instance Victoria Miro Gallery/London, that were best known for the Kusama shows, represents the Milton Avery Estate in Europe (and Alice Neel’s). It makes Art Basel a symphony, seeing these fine works from the 1940’s amidst cutting-edge contemporary art:

6.  More Art Basel versatility; a smashing work by Julian Schnabel (1990) at Almine Rech/Brussels and, yes, even sculptures (€200 to 400k) by American Outsider artist William Edmondson (ca. 1940) at Salon 94/Paris:


7.  Eclecticism also reached another satellite-fair; Liste, the art-fair for the less-established galleries. Peculiar enough, some southern-European galleries showed talent from the ‘70’s and ‘80s. Nogueras Blanchard/Barcelona, for example, showed exquisite Typings by American Autiste Savant Christopher Knowles from the mid-1970’s at prices between €7,5-€10k:


8.  Fondation Beyeler had an extremely well-hung Elsworth Kelly-room:

Beyeler’s first photo exhibition, the Wolfgang Tillmanns show was super-impressive:

Last but not least, the Tinguely Museum treated the art traveler with an exhibition by the controversial artist Wim Delvoye (the pig-tattooist, all about eclecticism and ornamentation):




Lawrence van Hagen's Pop-Up & What to See in Chelsea

One of the most refreshing exhibitions in Chelsea right now is Whats Up New York the Pop Up three story show at 132 10th Avenue, curated by Lawrence van Hagen. Unfortunately I only learned of it a week before its upcoming closing on Thursday the 25th. Amazing stuff, with work shared between Americans and Europeans, most of the latter group unknown to me previously, but who made me glad to have come. For instance, the Larry Bell painting seen in the photo that includes van Hagen, is mirrored by two works by Martini Basher while the Daniel Turner reflects similarly paint slashes by Johnny Abrahams. There’s a really unusually configured Kenneth Noland and a super small John Chamberlain that appears to be in an argument with a crushed metal work by Ernesto Burgos. All in all, an exhibition worth visiting.

Another amazing show at Friedman Benda, a leading design gallery, combines cleanly carved work by Wendell Castle and wildly inventive furniture by Ron Arad, Humberto & Fernando Campana and a host of other designers that make a trip to this site fanciful fun. And at David Zwirner there is the never ending shock of the late conceptual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres with a huge room bordered by wrapped candies and two small electric clocks as the only display on the opposing wall. At Lisson Gallery paintings by the centenarian Carmen Herrara show work from the last six years and at Matthew Marks the last work by the late Ellsworth Kelly document that he was still engaged in his work until the end.

Saw lots of other not always so interesting shows, but did want to mention Charlie Ahearn at P-P-O-W. Ahearn combines film and wall art, documenting street culture and the rise of hip hop in New York City, with videos like Bongo Barbershop and Dancing industry. There’s life in these works and he makes the most of it creatively. Just one last scene – at Allan Stone Projects there is a one man show of James Havard that is quite amazing. Without describing it I suggest you pay a visit. Havard hasn’t been seen in quite a while and I wonder why now that I’ve seen this exhibition.

There’s a lot going on in Chelsea that you will never see at the big fairs.

Curator of  Whats Up New York , Lawrence van Hagen adjacent to a Larry Bell painting

Curator of Whats Up New York, Lawrence van Hagen adjacent to a Larry Bell painting

Understanding The Appraisal Profession

When you retain the services of an attorney, a doctor or an accountant you expect that individual to have had the appropriate education and experience to have passed examinations that assure you of his or her competency to successfully provide the services you require.

Why then do you too often fail to demand the same requirements of an appraiser?

I’m thinking about this a lot because I just took a four day 15-hour recertification course and examination in The Uniform Standards of Processional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) one of many I’ve had to attend and be tested on over my years as an appraiser. In not so many months I will have to take a related seven-hour course. These are apart from countless attendances at symposia, lectures, museums, art panels as well as courses taken, gallery and museum visits, articles written, articles read, and whatever else it takes to keep up with my profession – just as is mandated for attorneys, doctors, accountants. In other words, we are all in the same professional boat, and paddling like crazy just to keep up with new rules, regulations and developments in our particular fields.

In other words, professional appraisers must undertake with the same rigor those standards that other professionals maintain to earn the public trust.

Because this is a big topic to take on, I’ve decided to break it up into multiple short articles. Right now all I’m trying to do is provide a little clarification on the subject of appraising.


First of all, exactly what is an appraiser? My definitions are compliant with the USPAP manual based on the Appraisal Standards Board of The Appraisal Foundation, the governing organization for all professional appraisers.

1)      An appraiser is someone who in order to develop an opinion of value without bias is expected to perform valuation services in a competent manner, independently, impartially and objectively.

2)      The appraiser’s client is the person or persons who contact an appraiser for a particular assignment, but who may not be the person responsible for payment. In other words, if an attorney engages the appraiser he is the client although the attorney’s own client is the one who pays.

3)      Before actual work is undertaken by an appraiser he or she has to determine the scope of work necessary to identify the problem to be solved, figure out and perform all the work necessary to come up with credible results for the intended use and analyze and provide the appraisal report.

These are simply general guidelines for utilizing the services of an appraiser. However, users of appraisal services should understand that professional appraisers must comply with USPAP when required by law or agreement with the client.

An appraisal may be written or verbal, but in both cases there must be a work file maintained that includes certification by the appraiser. This work file must be retained at least five years after preparation of the report or at least two years after final judicial disposition of any proceedings in which testimony was provided by the appraiser.

Any decision as to the purpose of the appraisal and the kind of value to be utilized is made between the appraiser and his client before the initiation of work so that there are no misunderstandings about the goal of the assignment. There should be a letter of agreement or formal contract drawn up prior to the onset of the work by the appraiser.

Although “valuers” (appraisers) in Europe are not compelled to follow USPAP, many do. Many more adhere to similar regulations in the “Red Book” of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). European associates of OTE, when acting as professional appraisers, are expected to also be in compliance with these standards.

With all these clarifications, we’re now at the very beginning of the job.

Next time we’ll discuss what steps the appraiser must take to perform a professional appraisal.


Elin Lake-Ewald, PhD,ASA,FRICS

The Photography Show

O’Toole-Ewald Art Associates, Inc’s photography expert, Mary Panzer, led four of OTE’s appraisers on a technical tour of the newly housed AIPAD exhibition on March 30th.

Easy access exhibition spaces made the walkathon informative and fun – except that Mary, formerly head of the Photography Department at the Smithsonian, apparently knew every dealer in the show, so we didn’t exactly do the tour at lightning speed! It’s certain to be remembered as one of the top art exhibitions of the year.

Mary Panzer, O'Toole-Ewald Art Associates Inc's Photography Expert

Mary Panzer, O'Toole-Ewald Art Associates Inc's Photography Expert