Valuing a Work of Art

How do you determine the value of a work of art?

The value of a work of art is really a combination of a number of factors. In no particular order they are:

  • Provenance (ownership history)
  • Condition
  • Quality (as compared to other works by this artist and by other artists)
  • Artist (household name? unknown? talented? trained? self taught?)
  • Current market conditions
  • Style or period (is this type of work popular and therefore in demand?)
  • Size (some artists’ smaller works are more sought after than larger ones, and vice versa)
  • Original? (it had better be!)
  • Date (some years are very important in a given artist’s career)
  • Exhibition history (did this work debut at a crucial World’s Fair? Has it hung in a museum?)
  • Literature (is the work written up in books or catalogues raisonnĂ©?)

For each factor there are many possible answers. You could make a pie chart for any work of art, with each segment of the pie representing one of the categories above, taking into account the importance of some factors over others with regard to that one piece of art. For example, some artists such as Picasso are so well known that their name alone imputes value and the “Artist” segment of the pie chart would be big. But for a relatively unknown artist the Artist segment would be small and less important to the value of the work.

This list is meant as a starting point to give you a sense that there are ways to quantify the value of a work of art of which many people may not be aware.