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Friday, August 29, 2008

Black Lights: Fine Art, Antiques & Collectibles

As a collector, it is important to fully understand the quality and condition of your objet d’art prior to making a purchase. Both quality and condition directly contribute to value, and a black light is a great tool to use on fine art, antiques, collectibles and other objects of curiosity. Overall, contemporary paints and repairs become evident under black light, and it is a fairly simple method to put into practice, requiring only a black light (either big or small) and a dark room. Note that the use of the black light should also be fortified with additional research, and in many cases, a professional should be consulted. Be careful not to over expose your fine art and collectibles to ultraviolet light.

A black light can be used to inspect paintings for touch-ups and repairs. Tiny cracks in oil paintings will also show under ultraviolet light, and illegible signatures can often be deciphered.

The uranium oxide in collectible Depression and Vaseline glass will glow under a black light. American colorless pressed glass made before 1930 is said to fluoresce with a yellow tint, where as reproductions in most cases will not. It has been said by various professionals that American brilliant cut glass also casts a yellow hue under ultraviolet light (see image). Others say it glows in a pale violet or blue hue. Because of the difference in opinions, it is important to follow up with additional research to ensure authenticity.

Documents & Manuscripts:
Chemical bleaches and dyes used in modern documents and manuscripts will also glow under the black light.

Antique Toys:
Cast iron was used to make many early 20th century toys. In order to determine if the toy is a modern replica or not, use a black light to check and see if the paint glows. If it does, then the toy is a modern replica.

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Contemporary Art Tycoons: Hirst, Freud & Koons

In the midst of a recession, there is no shortage of cash flow in the contemporary art world. With Damien Hirst’s major group of works entitled, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever coming up at auction, September 15 -16 at Sotheby’s London, auction estimates, including 223 lots are anticipated to exceed $121 million. His previous Pharmacy auction at Sotheby’s in November 2007 resulted in just over $20 million in sales, exceeding the initial estimate of $4 million. The monumental centerpiece of the upcoming sale entitled, The Golden Calf alone is estimated to be in the $15-22 million range. Will Hirst reclaim the world sale record for an individual artwork by a living artist? Lucien Freud (the grandson of the late Sigmund Freud) currently has the record set at $33.6 million for his painting, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping. The art world is watching to see if Hirst will up the ante with The Golden Calf.

Essentially, contemporary art is cutting edge. Conceptually it stirs up norms or may adhere to them in the most patronizing way. Either way, it gets the wheels turning. Fiscally, it is often times too expensive and risky of an investment for the average fine art collector, leaving the playing field open to Fortune Global 500 corporations and billionaire art collectors. Part of the lure of Damien Hirst is that he is essentially a brand from embalmed and encased animals on the high end, fine art auction/gallery level to jeans and poster prints that flirt with the less fortunate art appreciators and aspiring collectors. Hirst has created such a name for himself that he not only has the attention of current pop culture but every current reputable art forum perceives him as being one of the most powerful and influential artists on the contemporary art market if not history.

Here’s a brief recap of previous record sale holders:

Lucian Freud: $33.6 million (Christie's New York)

Lucian Freud’s painting entitled Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, depicting Sue Tilley, a London Jobcentre Supervisor earned $33.6 million at Christie’s auction in Manhattan back in May 2008, setting a world sale record for an individual piece by any living artist. According to the London Times, Roman Abramovich, Russian tycoon and owner of the British Chelsea football club, bought not only Freud’s piece but an $86 million painting by the late Francis Bacon entitled Triptych.

Jeff Koons: $23.6 million (Sotheby's New York)

Jeff Koons’s Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold), sold for $23.6 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 2007 to Larry Gagosian of the Gagosian Gallery, one of the most prominent dealers in the United States.

Damien Hirst: $19.1 million (Sotheby's London)

Damien Hirst’s Lullaby Spring pill box sold for $19.1 million at Sotheby’s London in June 2007 to an anonymous bidder. Many of Hirst’s most valuable pieces have been sold by galleries. Art market analysts have observed that the Hirst’s saleroom prices have been a good indicator of his demand on the market, resulting in a boost in auction estimates and results for the two biggest auction houses (Sotheby’s and Christie’s).

-Anne Zakaras
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lollapalooza 2008: Art Behind the Music

Lollapalooza may be long over, but the music still lives on and so does the art. After all, music and art make a perfect couple. Just looking around our office at artwork left for research, I can see pieces by artists that have at some point created album covers for popular bands throughout the 20th and 21st century. For example, Mid-20th century American pop artist, Andy Warhol created iconic images, such as “Banana” for the Velvet Underground & Nico album in 1967, and British pop artist, Sir Peter Thomas Blake did the same for The Beatles’ album, “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band,” on the other side of the Atlantic in 1966-67. 20th century American outsider/folk artist, Rev. Howard Finster co-designed R.E.M.’s album, “Reckoning,” with the lead singer, Michael Stipe in 1984, in addition to designing the cover for the Talking Heads’ album, “Little Fingers,” in 1985. Czech art photographer Jan Saudek designed Soul Asylum’s double-platinum album, “Grave Dancer’s Union,” in 1993. In comparison to paintings and sculptures from genres past, most of the cover art on rock albums are derived from contemporary art prints which tend to be easier on a collector’s pocketbook. (Check out art prints at MIR's online gallery:

Here are a few of the cover artists for several of the headlining acts at Lollapalooza 2008:

Radiohead was the solo headliner on Friday night at Lollapalooza. Over the past 15 year or so, they have had produced seven full length albums with distinguished album covers. Stanley Donwood, a British artist Thom Yorke met at the University of Exeter in the UK and has designed every Radiohead album cover art piece in collaboration with Yorke aside from “Pablo Honey,” Radiohead’s debut album. His commercial works consist primarily of limited edition colored screenprints with whimsically dark subject matter, many of which include pointy toothed bears. On the retail market, his work is sold in the $300.00-$400.00 (USD) range depending on size, subject matter and how extensive of a design technique he used.

Rage Against the Machine, headlined on Saturday night, drawing an immense crowd. Having produced a fistful of albums since their self-titled debut album in 1992, the cover art of their debut album illustrates one of the most powerful images throughout history taken by Associated Press journalist and photographer, Malcolm Browne, depicting Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, burning himself to death in Saigon in 1963. He was protesting President Ngo Dinh Diem's administration for oppressing the Buddhist religion. The confrontational photograph is well paired with the music of Rage Against the Machine, expressing strong activist ideals with their intense lyrics and aggressive sound. Photographer, Malcolm Browne was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year in 1963 in addition to a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1964. In 2006, a print of the photograph with an inscription by Browne sold at auction for $6,500.oo (USD) in New York City.

Nine Inch Nails participated in the first Lollapalooza tour in 1991 and returned this year as a closing headliner on Sunday night. Founding member Trent Reznor hired American graphic artist and photographer in 1999, Rob Sheridan at the ripe age of 19 initially to maintain the band’s website but eventually he became their art director creating album cover designs as well as contributing to additional multi-media projects. Sheridan has also worked with fellow Lollapooza act, Saul Williams who played on the same day as Nine Inch Nails. Sheridan sells limited edition art prints on archival paper at in the $60.00-$80.00 (USD) price range.

The affordability of the artwork listed above make them great items for young collectors. So the next time you pull an album off your shelf or download a few songs from iTunes, check out the band's cover art, it might just be the next big thing on the market.

-Anne Zakaras
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The “Do’s” and “Don’ts” When Choosing a Fine Art & Personal Property Appraiser

Would you take a medication or vitamin that wasn’t FDA approved? Would you hire a lawyer that didn’t pass the Bar Exam? If you needed surgery, would you Google surgery methods or watch a tutorial on YouTube and do it yourself? Most likely (hopefully) your answers are no, so why would you choose an appraiser or not use an appraiser that wasn’t an accredited member of a professional appraisal organization?

Many of our clients that call in with service inquiries (312-814-8510) have had previous experiences with appraisers that have taken them for a ride, and that is the main reason for today’s blog. My colleagues and I have compiled a list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for the average person, when choosing a fine art & personal property appraiser:

· Don't have an appraisal without having a purpose for the appraisal. There are different types of appraisals for different reasons. If you have an item whose value you are unsure of, or if you are looking for a general value to sell it at, you would need to know the fair market value. The FMV is basically its worth on the current market between a willing buyer and seller who have a general knowledge of the item. The popular PBS show, Antiques Roadshow is a perfect example of people obtaining the FMV for their items. At MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. we call this service a verbal evaluation (call our office for more details on our services… 312-814-8510). If you are going to insure your items on your insurance policy or are filing an insurance claim, you would need the insurance replacement value. This value tends to be higher than the FMV, and is used only for insurance appraisals

· Do ask questions before deciding on an appraiser and an appraisal service. Be cautious of appraisers that make you feel uncomfortable about asking questions. Read through their web site and/or ask for them to send you supplemental materials for you to read at your leisure. Client testimonials are a great way to check out an appraiser’s experience and repertoire. All fees should be discussed upfront before business is conducted Before receiving an appraisal service, you should feel completely comfortable and have an understanding of fees prior to doing business with them

· Don't rely on a free appraisal or appraisers that charge on a percentage-of-value basis or other types of contingent fees. It is unethical and automatically skews the professionalism of that appraisal. An appraisal is a professional service that is unbiased to the value of an item. That service should be the same hourly rate whether or not the item is a poster print or an original masterpiece. Service costs may vary depending on the type of appraisal or the amount of research backing it up but as stated before, all fees should be discussed upfront

· Do refer to appraisal associations that outline appropriate ethical codes with regard to fine art and personal property appraisals. It is simple for an appraiser to be a member of one of the organizations by merely paying the appropriate fees for membership. However, it is important that the appraiser be an accredited member of one of the following organizations, which means that they have taken the proper courses and passed a comprehensive exam. The following organizations (but are not limited to) require their appraisers to adhere to specific standards of ethical behavior:

International Society of Appraisers

American Society of Appraisers

· Don’t sell your items to an appraiser that has appraised them. Plain and simple, it’s a conflict of interest. An appraiser can function as a dealer and vice versa, but only if the functions are kept separate

· Do inquiry about consignment possibilities. Many appraisal firms will help to sell your items on consignment or they will be able to refer you to a venue where your item can be sold such a reputable auction house or collector

Feel free to contact MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. with any inquires.

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.