Sotheby's Institute of Art

Determining Value: an Appraiser’s Perspective

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About the course

An artwork can have many lives, and many more values, depending on how, when, and where it is bought or sold. To fully appreciate how prices and valuations are determined, this course explores various definitions of value, as well as the factors that can create (or detract from) value.

From an appraiser’s perspective, you learn how to properly research an object from “start to finish” in order to determine market price and understand the impact condition can have on value. Through presentations and interviews with industry experts, course lectures explore the pros and cons of different sale models, including sale at public auction and the gallery level, and advise on how to keep track of values in the fast-paced global art market. This course also outlines what to look for when evaluating different media, including paintings, drawings, photographs, and prints, and deepens your understanding of how to evaluate an artwork on your own.

What you will learn:

  • Familiarity with the essential value factors that can affect pricing and how to analyze them.
  • Proficiency in identifying basic media and appropriate research tools.
  • Knowledge of how prices are set at both the primary and secondary market levels.
  • An understanding of how condition and conservation can impact value.

Sample Topics

Week 1: Introduction to Value

  • Exploring the Social and Economic Concepts of Value
  • Market Definitions: Appraisal vs. Valuation and Value vs. Price
  • Overview of the Market Cycle

Week 2: Value Factors

  • Establishing Key Factors that Affect Market Value
  • Application of Factors at the Primary and Secondary Market Levels

Week 3: Medium and Methodology – Part One

  • Identification of Medium – Paintings and Works on Paper
  • Relevant Primary and Secondary Market Research Tools
  • Catalogue Raisonnés

Week 4: Medium and Methodology – Part Two

  • Identification of Medium – Prints, Multiples, and Photography
  • Relevant Primary and Secondary Market Research Tools

Week 5: How Are Prices ‘Set’?

  • Exploration of the Auction Model and Pre-Sale Estimates
  • Exploration of the Gallery Model and Asking Prices
  • Best Practices for the New Collector

Week 6: Condition and Value

  • Exploration of Condition as It Pertains to Value
  • When, Why and How to Work with a Conservator
  • What the Key Takeaways Are

Trust the experts

Emily Thompson

MA, Arts Administration, New York University; BA, Hobart and William Smith Colleges Emily Thompson is a fine art specialist at Emigrant Bank Fine Art Finance and its subsidiary company, Fine Art Asset Management, with over 15 years of experience in art market research and valuation. Prior to jo...


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Available dates

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