Need To Liquidate A Relative's Art Collection? Where Should You Begin?

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Whether you've recently been named the executor of a relative's estate or are trying to assist an elderly relative in paring down his or her belongings prior to entering an assisted living facility, you may find yourself at somewhat of a loss when it comes to liquidating an extensive artwork collection. Unlike furniture and other household goods, artwork is a highly unique asset, and you don't want to find you've inadvertently sold a priceless Picasso at a garage sale. What can you do to ensure you get top dollar for your relative's artwork without doing the extensive legwork yourself? Read on to learn more about how art auction houses work, as well as some of the factors you'll want to consider when deciding where to begin the liquidation process.  

What function do art auction houses serve?

Art is a unique commodity, where price (and demand) can fluctuate wildly, often depending on variables of which even the art connoisseur may be unaware. As a result, selling a relative's artwork piecemeal on your own (or online) may net you lower prices than you'd enjoy if you enlisted the help of an auction house with connections to buyers across the globe. 

These auction houses take possession of artwork, research its origin and authenticity, and market it prior to auction. Often, an auction house may utilize themes for its auctions to bring in the most dedicated fans.

Because these auction houses deal exclusively in artwork, they are in the unique and enviable position of being able to match art with collectors of that art for a mutually-satisfactory transaction. Alternatively, they can auction off this art to the general public to ensure you reap the highest price any collector is willing to pay. 

For example, if your relative has an extensive collection of Tiffany lamps, an auction house worker may be able to contact a nearby patron who is known for his or her own Tiffany lamp collection to gauge his or her interest in purchasing the entire collection before advertising the lamps for auction to the general public. Not only can this speed up the liquidation process, it can also help ensure your relative's art will go to a new owner who will appreciate and properly care for it. 

Where should you begin when it comes to liquidating your relative's artwork? 

If you're considering using an auction house to quickly and efficiently liquidate your relative's collection, you may want to shop around. Each auction house may conduct its business a bit differently, and depending on your own needs and cash flow, you may prefer to simply sign over the entire collection for a set amount or choose to wait and pay a percentage of the final auction price as a fee to the auctioneer instead. By getting quotes from several auction houses, you'll ensure you have the information you need to make the best decision.

For more information and assistance, contact an art consultant, such as those at Rosenfeld Gallery