|Robert Irwin "Boats" c. 1950 Oil/board|
A reader discovered this painting of boats at a Santa Barbara garage sale two years back. After leaving the garage sale, she could not stop thinking about it – and returned to buy it for $150.
Upon seeing that the painting was signed ‘Irwin,’ I was eager to discover its worth. A very famous minimalist California artist is named Robert Irwin (1928-). Although the style is nothing like the works for which Irwin is known, the style and signature is almost identical to his early1950s work.
Robert Irwin is best known for his abstract canvases often depicting lines and dots. He experiments with visual perceptions of color and light. He is primarily a painter but also a sculptor using fluorescent installations.
The question is: does this painting have any value? I always tell my appraisal clients to remember that value is based on many factors. An official appraisal is based on market comparables and takes into account the artist, as well as condition, size, authenticity, provenance, and the current economy. An appraiser also has to consider the style for which an artist is best-known and collected
In consulting auction records, Irwin’s work has sold for as much as a million dollars with most works selling in the $50,000-$100-000 range. Strangely, after discussing the painting with multiple auction houses, they were hesitant to place a high estimate on the painting.
One auction expert said, “This imagery is not typical of his work. For this reason, I would worry that the market place might not respond well to this image. As such, I would estimate this more as novelty painting at $3,000-$5,000.
The lack of a strong market value is based on the fact that no direct comparables exist. Therefore, auction experts speculate that an atypical work would not be desireable to collectors of Irwin’s typically minimalist work. There are two abstract 1950s works currently going to auction that are estimated to sell between $30,000-$40,000.
While “Boats” would sell for much lower, a number of galleries also sell his work and a painting could be worth up to 30%-50% higher than auction value. Therefore, if this painting were to be appraised for Insurance* purposes, it would be expected to have a retail replacement value of alteast $6,000-$8,000.
An art find indeed!
Retail Replacement Value is defined as the highest amount in terms of US dollars that would be required to replace a property with another of similar age, quality, origin, appearance, provenance, and condition with a reasonable length of time in an appropriate and relevant market. When applicable, sales and/or import tax, commissions and/or premiums are included in this amount..
Alissa Anderson Campbell is an art appraiser for Anderson Shea Art Appraisals. She specializes in appraising European and American art for insurance, resale value, estate, tax, and charitable donation. Campbell is a member of the Appraisers Association of America (USPAP-compliant). Ph. 805.616.2781/www.andersonshea-artappraisals.com
* This is not considered a formal appraisal. An appraisal is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert who has examined the artwork in-person and is paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object. This article is restricted-use and is intended for educational purposes only.