When exploring a museum or gallery, have you ever secretly wondered why certain works of art are far more valuable than others?

We have!

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It’s easy to say that it’s a matter of taste, however, there are a number of important factors to look for when valuing works of art. To be clear, we’re talking about the monetary, market value of art. Emotional value and cultural significance are certainly important, however in the fluid art market, they affect the value very little if at all.

To give you an idea of what the experts look for during valuation, Catawiki’s dedicated team of art experts have shared a few key factors that determine the value of art.

1. Artist

The artist is the most important factor to look at appraising art. Looking at history it’s easy to see that some artists were more important than others and therefore their works will have more value than others. The prolificity of the artist affects the value as well. All things being equal, a work by an artist who produced more will not hold the same value as one who produced less. Other aspects of the artist to consider is when in their career the work was produced and whether the work represents their style (works within an artist’s oeuvre tend to be valued higher).

2. Certificate of authenticity

Sometimes authenticating a work can be as easy as asking the artist, or as difficult as subjecting the work to lab tests, but in either case, documentation is crucial. As more and more private buyers are purchasing art directly from auctions and fairs without proper advice, the certificate that should accompany a work of art became more and more important. No Van Gogh can be sold without the approval of the Van Gogh Museum. For Jongkind and other important impressionists, we have the Wildenstein Institute, for Herbin, we have Genevieve Claisse and so on.

3. Subject

Although it’s a matter of taste to some degree, certain subjects will generally sell better than others, therefore increasing the value. For example, a female nude is generally more interesting to buyers than a portrait of an old man. It’s important to keep in mind that this factor alone cannot determine the value of a work of art. It must be combined with other factors. For example, the subject of a work will narrow down the market of buyers who may be interested and as with anything, demand drives price.

4. Condition

Restorations of any kind will decrease the value of art, in fact, some collectors will only pursue un-restored works. Of course, the degree to which the value will decrease is determined by the quality of the restoration. A professionally restored piece will be more valuable than one that has been the victim of a bad restoration job. Some important things to consider when dealing with a restored piece are how the restoration affected the work’s appearance, structure and integrity. It’s true, the better the condition the higher the value, but like all other factors on this list, it must also be taken into consideration with others. For example, work in bad condition may have a higher value if the artist is highly sought after.

5. Provenance

Provenance is key! The stronger the provenance the better obviously. If you can trace a work all the way back to the artist and can create a strong pedigree, it will most certainly become more valuable. Something to consider with provenance is whether the work has been included in the ‘catalogue raisonné’ of the artist if applicable. Additionally, if you can prove that the work was once owned by someone famous aside from the artist themselves, it will be more likely to command a higher price. Finally, it can be helpful to try locating the work in past sale records in order to get an indication of the value.

6. Size

Size matters in art. Not to say that bigger is always better, however, it does represent a certain level of skill that often adds value to a work. It’s also important to consider what the buyer is looking for however as a massive piece may not work in every space.

7. Technique

Technique definitely affects the value of art. Is it an original hand painted work? Or a very rare photographic process for example? These will most certainly add value. It’s also important to examine works within the same medium to help determine the value. Comparing two paintings by the same artist may give a better indication of value than comparing a painting and a print for example, as one will have little to no affect on the value of the other.  

8. Edition

This factor does not apply to original painting, however in photography for example, or with any other technique where reproductions can be made, the edition influences the value of the work. The lower the edition, the higher the value might be. One-offs, therefore, will have the most value and therefore paintings, in general, are more costly than lithographs for instance.

9. Quality

Every artist has created bad works and good works. As with most other things, the higher the quality of the work, the more valuable it will be. Aside from the quality of the work itself, the quality of the materials can affect the value as well.

10. Market

Finally, the market affects the value of all artworks. You may be in possession of a beautiful work of art, but if nobody’s interested in buying it, unfortunately, it doesn’t hold much monetary value. The art market is fluid and in a booming economy, art and other luxury goods become more sought after. Conversely, in a declining economy, the same piece could sell for half of its value. A great number of factors can affect the art market so it’s important to keep an eye on it, try to spot trends and know what collectors are looking for at the moment.

Hopefully, this list has given you an insight into the world of art valuation and sparked an interest to sell works of art from your own collection. At online auction platform Catawiki, their team of art experts are standing by to see what artworks you have to offer and to give you their own valuation. Who knows? You could be in possession of a treasure, just waiting to be sold at auction.

So, please ask a valuation on Mearto.com. After the estimation, you can put your special artwork at auction on Catawiki.

Registration for becoming a seller at Catawiki is for free, so even if your item isn’t sold for the price you had in mind, you won’t have to pay Catawiki any placing fees. So what are you waiting for, get your artwork estimated and offer it to the 12 million potential bidders who visit Catawiki every month. You only need to register for a free account to get started with selling and consulting their experts.