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  May 2009
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Melissa Soltesz in her Park City office
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Hints 'n Tips
Fine Art Appraisal
Be an Informed Client
by Sue Martin

For serious art collectors, there will no doubt come a day when they want or need to have all or a part of their collections appraised. Perhaps they're donating a piece to a museum and must have a report by a "qualified appraiser." Or perhaps they wish to insure the collection and need an appraised value on each piece of art. Or perhaps they want to sell a piece of the collection or satisfy their own curiosity about the value of their investment.

Whatever the reason, collectors are well advised to work with someone who is reputable and knows what they're doing. And it helps if the collector understands the appraisal process and output required by insurers or the IRS. Two Utah-based appraisers spent some time and effort educating me about their businesses: Melissa Soltesz |0| of Soltesz Fine Art Consulting, based in Park City, and Tom Alder,|1| co-owner of Williams Fine Art in Salt Lake City.

What do you look for in an appraiser?

"Handsome, charming, educated," quips Alder, but quickly adds "someone who is very familiar with the particular kind of art [you want appraised]." Alder, who holds a M.A. degree in art history, specializes in early Utah art and contemporary landscape art by Utah artists.

Soltesz, who also holds degrees in art history and studio art, emphasizes that the appraiser should be educated in the practice of appraising and should adhere to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). Soltesz completed a certificate program sponsored by the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) and is a "candidate member" of ASA working toward full accreditation.

Are there different kinds of appraisals?

The purpose of your appraisal will dictate how the appraiser will approach the work and the type of report produced. For example, for insurance purposes, says Soltesz, "you want a report that is based on the 'replacement' value. I would look for other works by that artist in the marketplace. I would look for works of similar size, time period, medium, style, and subject." With as many comparables as possible to consider, Soltesz can then analyze what the replacement value would be.

If you are planning to donate your art to a museum or other charitable organization, "you want to know ‘fair market value,’” says Soltesz. In certain circumstances, the fair market value might be different than replacement value.

The nuts and bolts of an appraisal report include a description of the work – size, medium, approximate date created, condition, signature, and other details – as well as a photograph and the provenance (ownership history) of the piece. The report will then estimate the value of the work based on the appraiser's research. This relatively brief report might be all you need.

However, if the report is to be used for insurance purposes, estate planning, or charitable giving, and/or if the appraisal covers an entire collection, the report could be lengthy. Soltesz recently appraised a collection of 18 pieces of art resulting in a 75-page report.

What is the appraisal process?

Alder says that if a client just wants an estimate, they can bring the artwork to his gallery. If the artist is familiar, i.e., an artist, like LeConte Stewart, of special interest to the gallery or appraiser, it may take only a few minutes to consult the gallery's sales records, or other sources for comparable information and then estimate a value.

However, if the artist is relatively unknown, considerable research may be needed to arrive at a well-researched estimate of value.

Both Alder and Soltesz will also go to clients’ homes to see artworks or collections that are too large to take to the appraiser. They will discuss each piece with the owner to learn as much as possible about the history of the artwork. They make notes and take photographs, and then return to their offices to complete the research and prepare reports.

This could take days or weeks.

What does this cost?

Appraisers generally charge an hourly rate or a price clients agree to in advance. Appraisers who follow the USPAP standards do not price appraisals as a percentage of the value of the art, as this could lead to inflated valuations.

The best way to find out the cost is to meet with the appraiser, describe the project, and ask for an estimate.

Feature: On the Spot
Salt Lake's Jessica Norie

Jessica Norie is the Executive Director of Artspace, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation founded in 1980. Artspace's mixed-use projects incorporate affordable housing and commercial spaces such as artist studios, galleries, offices for nonprofits and small retail shops. Their newest project, Artspace Commons, is under construction at 423 West 800 South in Salt Lake City.

What hangs above your mantel?

Right now I'm moving to a new house so my walls are naked. But in my office, directly across from where I sit are three plates painted by Szugye. When I saw the paintings at the Art Access annual plate show I just had to have them and I had to throw a few elbows to get them. The plate show is a great way to collect art by this state's rich collection of artists and support a wonderful non profit. Also, I have to say they were uniquely framed by Tanner Frames in a way that makes the pieces appear to float on the wall. Both Art Access and Tanner Frames are in the Artspace City Center building at 230 S 500 West and I feel so fortunate to have these treasures just downstairs from my office.

What is your favorite building in Utah?

Artspace Rubber CompanyI know I shouldn't have favorites so I have to say that the three Artspace buildings are all wonderful to me. Artspace Rubber Company at 353 West 200 South was designed as a cold storage warehouse by Richard Kletting, the architect who also designed the Utah State Capitol. Artspace worked with MJSA Architects to redesign the warehouse as one of the first loft residential units in downtown Salt Lake City. Max Smith designed the building so that the sunlight from the skylight falls through the cut outs on each floor and lights the building in an amazing way. I also love the industrial chic of Artspace Bridge Projects at 511 West 200 South that was designed by Prescott Muir Architects. And Artspace City Center at 230 South 500 West, also done by MJSA, where the Artspace offices are, is a wonderful historic renovation that transforms the court where the train pulled into the center of the building to an interior garden.

What is the most memorable exhibit you've seen recently?

I loved the UMFA's Picasso to Monet exhibit. We are so fortunate to have a museum and donors able to bring these works to Salt Lake City. Seeing the exhibit I thought of all the emerging artists in Artspace projects and wondered which of their works might be in a traveling exhibit a hundred years from now.


15 Bytes: About Us
This Issue's Writers and Photographers

Tom AlderTom Alder recently left a 30-year mortgage banking career to become a partner in Williams Fine Art where he specializes in early Utah art. In December, he received his MA from the University of Utah in art history and wrote his thesis about Henri Moser. He serves various boards in the cultural community.

Analisa Coats Bacall is an instructor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Utah, where she received her M.A. in art history. She is interested in contemporary art and will be teaching Art Now, a new course in contemporary art history, at the U. this summer.

Ehren ClarkEhren Clark received his BA in Modern and Contemporary Art History and Critcism at the University of Utah and an MA in the art of the Renaissance at the University of Reading, UK. He currently writes for the The City Weekly, as well as being published in other journals in Utah.

Laura DuhamLaura Durham, a Utah native with a BA in Art History from BYU, has worked for the Utah Arts Council as the Visual Arts Coordinator for the past six years and, recently, she has taken on the Traveling Exhibition Program as well. She served as Vice President of the Salt Lake Gallery Association from 2003 - 2006 and now serves as Program Director for the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll.


Sue MartinSue Martin holds an M.A. in Theatre and has worked in public relations. As an artist, she works in watercolor, oil, and acrylic to capture Utah landscapes or the beauty of everyday objects in still life. She writes Hints 'n Tips, a regular feature, for 15 Bytes.

Shawn Rossiter
Shawn Rossiter successfully dropped out of a Masters Program in Comparative Literature to become a painter. In 2001 he founded Artists of Utah and is the editor of 15 Bytes.


Geoff WichertGeoff Wichert
has degrees in critical writing and creative nonfiction. He teaches writing at Snow College, where he also taught Art History for six years.


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15 Bytes is published monthly by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization located in Salt Lake City Utah. The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of 15 Bytes or Artists of Utah. Our editions are published monthly on the first Wednesday of the month. Our deadline for submissions is the last Wednesday of the preceeding month.

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