Sign up here

Ten keys to value a painting

We often find in a gallery or auction a perfect work of art for our collection, but we don’t know if it could be a good investment or, on the other hand, if we are paying a much higher price than we should.

No worries: We hereby tell you some of the keys to acquire a painting safely. And always remember that, if you have any doubts, the best you can do is get advice from an expert. In Balclis we will be pleased to help you!

Tips to purchase a painting safely

1. Authorship

Have we managed to identify the author? When a work of art is identified as belonging to a specific artist, it is valued in relation to the production and value of that particular artist. If we cannot identify the artist, the valuation given is that of the school he/she belongs to, which is always much lower than an individual valuation. For example, a landscape by Eliseo Meifrén is not valued the same as one attributed to the Catalan school of the 19th Century, although both belong to the same period and movement.

2. Authenticity

Based on the pinacological features of the work, we could identify the artist, but are we completely sure of this attribution? Even if it is signed, the work could be false. One of the best ways to ensure the authenticity is buying the work in an auction house specialized in the artist or the movement, which can attribute the work to its author with absolute certainty.

We can also rely on an external professional who issues an opinion on the authorship of the work, and who can delivers us a certificate of authenticity. We should always take into account who is asked for this opinion, so that his/her opinion has a significant market power. An unsigned oil painting, for example, certified by a member of Pablo Picasso’s succession, is worth exactly the same as if it had the signature of the genius stamped on it.

3. Period in the artist’s career

Some stages in an artist’s career are of special interest to collectors: because they have a special relevance within his/her production, or because they are more decorative and therefore more to the public’s taste, or simply because there are fewer examples of his/her production at that particular moment, so they are more difficult to obtain, and therefore more expensive. A figurative landscape from Picasso’s early period will never reach the same price as a cubist landscape by the same author, since it was this movement that established him as a genius of painting.

4. Theme

For the same reason as the previous point, which is not other than the taste of collectors, some themes are much more popular than others when deciding to buy one painting or another, and therefore, this has an impact on the economic valuation of a work. For example, a landscape of a Majorcan cliff is not valued the same as a portrait of Joaquim Mir’s grandmother, even though both belong to the same artist and may even have been created in the same year.

5. Techniques and materials

The essential criterion when valuing a painting is to consider it a unique work, because all artistic techniques that allow the creation of works in series, such as printing, will be valued well below the price of a single work. At the same time, the technique used by the artist to produce the work will also have an influence when setting its price: An oil painting is always more highly valued than a watercolour or pastel, which in turn, since they are coloured, have a higher estimation than other monochrome drawings, such as those made in charcoal, lead pencil or sanguine.

6. Support

Depending on the support where the work was made, it will stand better or worse the test of time. So, canvas or wood are always more valued than paper or cardboard.

7. The mastery of composition

The plastic skill and efficiency in creating a work is a very important point when it comes to value it, and it is the main reason why some artists are more valued than others. For example, the technical superiority of Joaquim Mir creating landscapes is one of the reasons why his work is considered to be far superior to most contemporary landscape artists.

8. State of conservation

Although it is clear that a work dating from the 17th Century cannot be preserved intact and immune to the passage of time as if it had been produced in the 21st Century, its state of conservation can vary greatly. It is important that a work has no major restorations, because sometimes a painting has undergone so much repainting that little or nothing remains of the artist’s original work. Aggressive varnishes, breakages and other external aggressions detract from the value of a work of art.

9. The size of the work

It is not a key factor when valuing a work of art, but it does have its importance when it comes to valuing a painting. Very small or excessively large works tend, with a few exceptions, to achieve comparatively lower selling prices.

10. Demand

Finally, the international context has the last word: art is just one more economic market, so the valuation of an artist’s work will always depend on the cultural and economic moment when it is acquired. The price of the same work of art can loss or gain value over time, depending on financial crises and, above all, on demand: the attraction that a given artist awakens to art collectors at any given moment.