Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Before Minimalism - An Early Robert Irwin

Robert Irwin "Boats" c. 1950 Oil/board

[Edited April 16, 2015] 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. Initially it was thought to be an early painting by the very famous minimalist California artist is named Robert Irwin (1928-).  Thanks to some reader comments (below), there is some suggestion it is actually a work by Irwin Brown. 

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. Therefore, the style is not consistent with Robert Irwin's work.

In consulting auction records, Robert Irwin’s work has sold for as much as a million dollars with most works selling for $50,000-$100-000. Recently Clar's auction house sold three paintings attributed to Robert Irwin -- with a very similar signature and style to "Boats." They sold for approximately $1,000.

The lack of a strong market value is based on the fact that an atypical work would not be desirable to collectors of Robert 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. 

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.

Appraisers do not authenticate works. We value them based on an informed assumption they are indeed what they are said to be. Because of this, I hesistate to value this work as a Robert Irwin piece. If “Boats” is indeed a work by Robert Irwin it would be very valuable. If the artist was found to be someone else, the value would be based on an entirely different set of auction records and gallery prices.

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.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Andrew Block: A California Folk Artist

Andrew Block "Lions" Oil on cardboard

A reader submitted this unusual painting with an unusual story. He and his wife purchased it as a Christmas present to each other at Morley Byrant & Co., gallery in Los Alamos, California for $400. The folk-art style oil on cardboard by artist Andrew Block (1879-1969) depicts African lions.

After a bit of research, it seems Andrew “Old Man” Block emigrated from Denmark to Solvang in 1914. Block worked as a blacksmith until he abandoned it for painting at 70 years old. Completely self-taught, Block produced over 500 paintings – and painted primarily on cardboard. Influenced by the impressionists and Post-Impressionists, his works are boldly colored and often depict landscapes, seascapes, and small towns.

Block’s style falls into the genre of Primitive, Na├»ve, or Folk Art painting -- a style and period of painting often characterized by childlike simplicity in both subject matter and technique. It describes the work of an artist who did not receive formal education, such as Henri Rousseau or Grandma Moses.

Block’s paintings have sold at auction with estimates of $300-$1,200 depending on the medium, size, subject, and date. In the gallery market his paintings are currently listed for sale between $500-$3,000. “Lions” is unsigned, which decreases the value and places it on the lower end of Block’s values. It is in very good condition for being painted on cardboard, a porous and atypical medium for paintings

Although Andrew Block only has a few auction records, Block exhibited his work at a number of museums and galleries including the Monterey Penisula Museum, San Diego Art Museum, Oakland Art Museum, Portland Art Museum, Elverhoy Museum, amongst others. This is important when valuing a work as collectors like to see that major institutions have exhibited an artist’s work.

In the current market, folk art is highly desirable to collectors. The highest auction record for a Folk artist is for Grandma Moses -- arguably the most famous artist of this art movement. One of her paintings sold for $1,360,000 (11/30/2006). Moses’ style and period is similar to "Lions", but Moses’ notoriety sets her values above all other Folk painters. A painting like “Lions” would be desirable on the market -- but sell for much less than considering Block is still a relatively unknown artist.

For Insurance purposes, this painting would have a Retail Replacement Value of approximately $1,000. 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.

* This is not a formal appraisal. It is for informational purposes only. 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.