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Friday, November 6, 2009

Bankruptcy and Fraud Lead to Art Sales

A Collecting Culture
Corporate institutions and those that run them often decorate their offices with expensive and rare pieces of art in order to communicate their power and prowess. Like other luxurious details, only the financially successful can afford these pieces of art, conveying the supremacy and exclusiveness of the organization. Beyond serving as an ego boost, these accumulated art treasures are an investment; and if the organization falls on hard times, these assets can be liquidated.

Many corporations invest in artwork as another way of diversifying their portfolios and as a means of connecting with the art-appreciating community. Bank of America, for example, has the Bank of America Corporate Art Program with which they collect and display artwork in their many offices as well as galleries in Charlotte, Seattle and San Francisco. Comprised of over 20,000 objects, the collection is even occasionally lent out to museums for shows such as the “Silver Clouds” exhibition held at Loyola University Museum of Art last year.

Parting with a Collection
Some less responsible institutions often find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to dispose of their art treasures. The troubles that have plagued the US economy at the beginning of the 21st century and corporate fraud have seemed to have contributed to the crash of once mighty institutions resulting in the liquidation of their collections.

When Enron filed for bankruptcy in 2001 the press followed closely as the institution liquidated its assets in an effort to reimburse the institution’s creditors. Sensational news articles appeared that tracked the sale of the now iconic cubed “E” that once stood at the entrance of the Houston based company. Less closely followed was the auction of the company’s sizable art collection. Held on May of 2003, the auction saw pieces by Claes Oldenburg and Donald Judd go up for sale with the lot eventually fetching over $1 million. Sadly, the questionable institution did not even have an opportunity to hang the artwork before they were forced to declare bankruptcy.

A more shocking liquidation of art has been that of the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The company, founded in the late 19th century, experienced a shocking fallout in 2008 after the collapse of the economy, being one of the largest companies to fail in the history of the country. The art that adorned its corporate headquarters just sold earlier this month for a total sum of $1.35 million at an auction in Philadelphia. The most expensive pieces were created by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana and almost all fetched much more than they had been estimated for.

Lessons Learned
Two lessons can be learned from the unfortunate cases covered above; first is the obvious fragility of companies and economies and more importantly (for us, anyway) is the personal as well as monetary value of artwork. Art can be an interesting and fun way to spread your wealth while diversifying your investment portfolio, and providing one with a new and engaging hobby of collecting. It can provide a symbol of power or a subtle reminder of the collector’s flawless taste. Either way, collecting artwork is an admirable and useful practice. Keeping tabs on the values of such pieces is always important for peace of mind as well as for insurance purposes and MIR Appraisal Services offers engaging art appraisals of almost any kind that will help you protect your investments.

Justin Bergquist
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 814-8510

Works Cited:
“Business in the Arts Awards,” on website.

Pollock, Lindsay. “Lehman Art Draws Trophy Hunters to $1.35 Million Sale,” on 2 November 2009.

Vogel, Carol. “Enron’s Art to Be Auctioned Off,” in New York Times 16 April 2003.

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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.