Art: There's no easy answer

01:00 Thu 03rd Oct 2002 |

Understandably, most people dream of discovering that the painting left by granny, or the drawing found in an antique shop may be worth a fortune.

The AnswerBank gets its fair share of questions asking 'Has anyone heard of this artist ' or 'Can anybody tell me what this is worth '

We're happy to take the questions. In some cases there may be valuable contributions from our users, who have wonderful experience in so many walks of life.

But the truth is, that unless you talk to an expert, you'll never really know.

Even if you have a work by an artisit who is recognised and valued, the subject matter, condition , and even the state of the market will all have influence on its worth. But where do you go for Help

If you try the National Gallery, for example, they'll tell you that they can't help. They simply couldn't cope with the volume. They suggest your local library or a local art gallery as the starting point.

If you try search engines on the Web, the hunt is often long and fruitless.

But there are some alternatives if you think your item really may be 'a winner'.
In print, you could try Davenport's Art Reference Price Guide.

It lists over 240,000 artists, and gives the dates and nationality of the artists but also typical subject matter.

Examples are shown of price, size and where sold with cross references to a further 30 major art reference books. But bear in mind, that these are for artists whose work has already been traded - and isn't a comprehensive list of small artists. But you'd better be sure - it costs £120, although your local library may be able to order it.

Online there is the Art Sales Index Database. This is the bees knees, and is used by Sothebys and Christie's and the other big aution houses, who pay £400 a year to access every artist passing through the auction houses of the world. But it is open to the Public, and offers a Pay per View service, which is cost effective if you use it wisely.

You can use it as much or as little as you need, at 1 per page viewed. Each page may contain up to 8 auction results. Click here.

A website called icollectorhas full listings of all international auction houses and details of sales past and future, complete with prices or guide prices for lots. It has every conceivable category for you to make easy comparisons with your own piece of art.For general information and the slight chance of getting information from other interested parties, you could try online public auction site E-Bay. Click here.

The simplest way is to take a photograph and post it to an expert. The major auction houses and many local ones are more than happy to accept letters stating everything you know about a work - as long as you include a photograph.

You may not get the answer you wanted, but at least you'll put your mind at rest.

Do you have a question about Arts & Literature?