Looking for information about art-related wealth or artwork values? Or maybe you’re curious about a particular artist? This week our on-staff art expert, Kristina Gropper, shares her favorite resources for finding information about collectors, collections, and the artists who bring their visions to reality. ~Helen
By: Kristina Gropper, Senior Consultant
In high school art history class, I remember drawing a thumbnail sketch of a painting. Later, I would review the sketch and hopefully recall the name of the work, subject, date, medium (acrylic, oil, tempera paint), and summarize why it is important. Since joining the Helen Brown Group, I have occasionally been asked by clients and coworkers to “sketch” the value of an art collection or estimate the value of an artist’s oeuvre in a limited amount of time. As researchers, we know the presence of an art collection serves as a major wealth indicator and enhances a profile. While some non-profits rely on a curator or professional with an arts background to provide an appraisal of a collection, many organizations do not have that luxury. In case you are tasked with finding the value of an art collection or an artist’s works I wanted to share some of my favorite free resources:
Art News Top 200 Collectors: For a quick lookup, Art News provides an annual list of the top 200 art collectors. This list allows you to browse by categories and search by collector names. Art News also covers current trends in art collecting and provides fascinating profiles on young collectors. One trend I noticed: many young art collectors catch the collecting bug from their parents.
The Art Newspaper: The Art Newspaper, a journal of record for the visual arts world covering international news and events, is a great resource to have in your back pocket. Suppose you are interested in learning more about a particular art collection, for example, the Olga and Pieter Dreesman collection of Pablo Picasso’s works. The Art Newspaper provides a concise summary of the couple’s collecting priorities and ultimate decision to work with a gallery instead of a public auction. In addition to providing an estimate of their Picasso collection ($43 million), the article mentions an upcoming sale that would not be listed on auction websites.
Artsy: When asked to estimate the value of a living artist’s oeuvre, I first try to find the artist’s website and/or gallery representation. Those sites provide the best biographical summary and artist’s statement. Although I always check the gallery site for prices, I have better luck finding the range for an artist’s work on Artsy. For the artist Emily Ferguson, for example, Artsy lists many of the works sold by the artist via Half Gallery in the $5,000-$9,999 range. Artsy also has a free price database with auction records from over 300,000 artists.
Christie’s Auction House/Sotheby’s Auction House: These premier auction websites allow you to browse sales results after creating a free account. You may also find all the works sold by a particular collector if that information is public. Last week I found out one prospect was an avid collector and identified some 25 works that he sold in 2023 for over $10 million. I included this information in a short paragraph on the prospect and included the $10 million+ in the total visible assets identified. You may also search for upcoming auction sales, like the Collection of Sir Elton John. These auction websites are also a great resource for estimating the value of a particular work. If you know your donor owns the painting “Sunset” by Arthur Dove, you can include in the “Other Wealth Indicators” section that this painting most recently sold at Christie’s for $7.8 million in 2021.
It can be tricky to get specific details about art and art collections, but these resources are my go-to’s. For these and more, check out the HBG North America Prospect Research Links page, and look under the Wealth Indicators section.