The Art Hunters Handbook
American Art Advisor
A New Way To Sell Art At Auction
The Art Auction Partnership Program – 19th & 20th Century Paintings
Q What is a 50-50 Art Auction Partnership?
A It’s a deal where we buy your American (and European) paintings for top dollar. We then put your art up at public auction and split the profit with you 50-50. The price we pay you is yours to keep, no matter what happens at auction. We have been in the art auction business for 30 years.
Q Tell me exactly how this works. How can I sell my art to you for cash, and then sell it again at auction?
A It’s very simple, really. First, we expertly appraise your art. Second, we buy your art for cash. Your art is then consigned to an auction house (like Sotheby’s or Christie’s) for public sale. If it sells for more than we paid you, you receive 50% of the profit, and we receive the other 50%.
Q What is the difference between a cash advance and a "Guaranteed Cash Advance”?
A A cash advance is where someone lends you money based on the anticipated sale of your art. If your painting does not sell at auction, you must return the cash advance (with interest). Except for West Highland Art Auctions, you also have to pay for insurance, photography and transportation costs. Our “Guaranteed Cash Advance” is yours to keep no matter what happens at auction. It’s the minimum you will receive. And you may get much more!
Q Which auction houses do you use?
A We recommend and use Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Freeman’s, Heritage, and all other major auction houses. After we buy your painting, the auction process takes only 3 to 6 months.
Q What kind of art do you buy?
A We buy original oil paintings and watercolors by “listed” 19th and 20th Century artists with auction records. We do not buy prints or reproductions. If necessary we will have your painting cleaned, restored and re-framed, and split these costs with you.
Q Suppose I sell you a painting for $10,000 and it sells at auction for $15,000. How much do I receive?
A If the “hammer price” is $15,000, and we pay a 6% seller’s fee, we receive about $14,000. This is $4,000 more than we paid you. You receive an extra $2,000 and we keep $2,000 as our commission. Your total payment would be about $12,000.
Hayley Lever, New York / Ft. Lee, New Jersey. 13” x 16” Oil On Panel. Sold at auction (2007) by West Highland Art Auctions for $26,400.
Q What is a “Buyer’s Fee”?
A When you consign a painting to auction, the auction house adds a 25% “Buyer’s Fee” to the “hammer price.” So, when someone bids $10,000, they are really paying $12,500. The auction house keeps the entire Buyer’s Fee. The seller (you and us) receives only the hammer price, less a seller’s fee. (We get a lower rate.)
Q Do paintings always sell for a profit at auction?
A No, but if accurately estimated, and placed in the right auction, paintings usually do very well. In the unlikely event that your painting sells for a loss, it’s our loss, not yours. We never ask for any money back.
Q How much of a commission do you charge?
A We do not “charge” a commission at all. We pay you a fair price for your art, and then sell at auction. If there is a loss, we absorb the entire loss. If there is a profit, we split the profit with you.
Q Why should I sell my art to an art dealer?
A The answer is, you shouldn’t. It makes no sense to sell to a dealer for the same price as we will pay you. We will split the profit with you. The dealer won’t.
Q Who transports my art?
A We will arrange for pick-up and delivery. All art is fully insured. Expert packers will professionally wrap and box your paintings.
Q Do higher estimates boost auction prices?
A No. A modest estimate encourages competition, and a painting will usually sell for a higher price with 10 or 20 collectors bidding than with only one or two.
Emile Gruppe, Mt. Mansfield, Vermont. 30”x36” Oil On Canvas.
Sold at auction (2010) by West Highland Art Auctions for $19,200.
Q What if my painting doesn’t sell at auction?
A If your painting fails to sell at auction, we own it. You have already been paid, and you do not have to worry about selling it a second time. If you prefer to take 100% of the risk of selling at auction, that’s your choice. But without our Guarantee, if your painting does not sell, you will get it back.
Q Is it bad if a painting fails to sell at auction?
A Yes. Paintings are offered at auction with a “reserve” or minimum selling price. It is important that this reserve is fair and reasonable or serious bidders will not compete. If a painting fails to sell at auction, which happens 20% to 30% of the time, the message to the art market is: There is something wrong with this painting. A “fresh to the market” painting creates the most excitement, not a resale.
Q Why do paintings by the same artist bring such different prices?
A “Similar” paintings by the same artist are not worth the same price. For instance, American Impressionist Birger Sandzen was at the peak of his ability in the 1920’s. By the 1940’s Sandzen’s brushstrokes had softened and his color palette was more limited. Sandzen’s subject matter remained the same, wild and windblown trees set amidst twisted rivers, purple mountains and Van Gogh skies. While his later work will bring $40,000 at auction, his earlier masterpieces can command over $100,000. Provenance and condition are also key factors in realizing top dollar.
Fern Coppedge, October. 16”x 16” Oil on Canvas. Sold at auction (2011) by West Highland Art Auctions for $29,800.
Click here to read story about this painting
(featured in The Art Hunters Handbook.)
Q Are there any other advantages of using West Highland Art Auctions?
A In addition to a Guaranteed, Non-refundable cash advance (based on the likely selling price) and a reduced fee, there is no charge for insurance or photography. And you never pay packing or shipping costs. (We do.) As soon as we are paid by the auction house, we pay you 50% of the profit. Plus, we use special promotions and priority catalog placement to generate competitive bidding.
Q What do you buy as an auction partner besides art?
A We also buy antiques, collectibles and rare coins and stamps. We are experts in rare coins, having written 7 books on the subject since 1977.
We recently used Les and Sue of West Highland Art Brokers to restore, market, and sell a valuable painting that has been in our family for 75 years. Our experience was better than expected at every stage of the process, from discussions to contracting, to the final stages of auction and payment. We find them to be very personable and professional, and appreciate the help in getting this done for us. Thanks.
—Steve and Sandy, Keysville, Virginia
I found American Art Advisor online after checking out other services. Quickly it became apparent that this was the best way sell one of our classic paintings: Edouard Cortes. It’s been a real pleasure working with AAA. From the beginning Les made it clear how the process would work. As it proceeded, his approximation of value was spot on. Great Work! In retrospect this truly was a delightful experience and we are so happy that we went with American Art Advisor, thank you Les and and best wishes!
—John Gingold, San Diego, CA
“In researching options to sell a painting, my wife fortuitously found Les and his company. We have been more than pleased with him personally as well as with the outcome of the transaction. Throughout our relationship, Les was scrupulously honest, ethical, communicative, and in all ways a gentleman with whom it has been a pleasure to work. He consistently underpromised and overdelivered, culminating in a payment which was significantly higher than his initial estimate. I would unequivocally recommend West Highland to anyone with a desire to sell a work of art.”
— Bob Crosby, Lakeville, MN