Ask a Gallery Owner | Does an Artist’s Death Result in an Increase in the Value of that Artist’s Work?


There is an outdated, morbid joke that in order for an artist to see a considerable increase in the worth of her perform, all she has to do is die. Underlying this dark humour is a deep-seated perception among the public at large, and among the some artists, that once an artist passes away, their function will invariably enhance in worth.

Nafea Faa Ipoipo? by Paul Gauguin marketed for $210M in 2014

This belief is based mostly on a restricted being familiar with of how the deceased-artist artwork current market will work, and on some restricted examples the place the value of deceased artists’ artwork has without a doubt enhanced dramatically write-up-mortem. All 1 has to do is peruse recent auction records to see illustrations of revenue of do the job by deceased artists for tens, or even hundreds of hundreds of thousands of bucks to have this thought strengthened.

However, in most conditions, a wrong correlation is currently being drawn. The artwork isn’t providing at elevated costs entirely for the reason that the artist is deceased.  The art is marketing due to the fact there is higher need for the work. The artist’s demise is a element, guaranteed – the offer of the function is now limited to current function, and if the desire is greater than that source, selling prices will rise – but dying will not, on its personal, improve desire for the art.

Our misperception of how the market place works is pushed by the fact that we only listen to about the situations exactly where the price of the function skyrockets. We’re not likely to examine a headline that states, “Artist Dies, Artwork Proceeds to Market at About the Exact same Selling price it did When the Artist was Alive.”  Finally, this headline would most likely be extra universally applicable.

I recently received an email from a RedDot reader on this subject matter.

My excellent friend and portray-buddy passed away of a critical kind of leukemia. I have painted together with him for nearly 8 many years. He fought the most cancers for two several years. He was a prolific plein air painter and created innumerable parts in excess of the years. He informed his spouse he’d like me to curate his work. Now that the emotional dust has begun to settle, his spouse and I are getting completely ready to dig in to the task. I have in no way done this in advance of. I chatted with a good friend of mine who gave me some views on arranging this kind of a task. I puzzled if you could possibly have some guidance for me. With this sort of a significant job, I’d like to be thorough the initially time through. [My friend] recommended to be aware the day, medium, area in which the painting was finished, price tag, and incorporate [the artist’s] narrative which pretty much often was integrated with his paintings. All through his final 6 months or so, he posted a portray/day on Fb and wrote detailed narratives to accompany each and every portray.

The following dilemma has to do with potential posthumous revenue. [The artist’s wife] is of the mind that reserving his paintings will end result in their enhance in benefit. The cash to be obtained isn’t her motive, but relatively reinforcing or enhancing the present-day value. Is it constantly the case that the art of a deceased artist will increase in worth? Could possibly it be clever to release some for sale in batches from time to time as opposed to just sitting on the collection. Is there an optimal interval of time in advance of these types of artwork must be designed offered to the general public for acquire?

My reply:

Very first let me to say that I’m sorry to hear of your reduction – it sounds like [the artist] was a great mentor and close friend.

Cataloguing and inventorying all of the function is a fantastic way to start out. I may well propose that in addition to all of the items you described, it would also be a fantastic notion to index the subject matter-make any difference of just about every piece so that you can simply cross-reference and team the operate.

How effectively acknowledged was [the artist]? Did he exhibit in galleries? How many collectors experienced purchased his function around the a long time? All of these components will engage in in to how the get the job done values posthumously. Unless an artist is extensively collected and the function is in higher demand from customers at the time of death, it is not likely that there would be a large bump in value. For higher-desire artists the bump comes because the offer is all of a sudden minimize off but the need is solid. For most other artists, passing has pretty little impact on need, but it can lessen the chance that a gallery would be intrigued in exhibiting the artist’s function if they weren’t now undertaking so.

Was Bob represented by galleries? Where by would you be attempting to sector the get the job done?

I haven’t however been given a reply to the queries I lifted, but I assume you can see wherever I’m likely with the thoughts. I do think that regulating the launch of new perform is a fantastic concept if there is a network of galleries in spot with the capacity to marketplace the operate, and a collector foundation proven to make the demand from customers.

I have observed cases in which the benefit really decreases due to the fact the artist’s estate and present collectors flood the market place quickly soon after the demise of an artist.

The better issue arrives if there wasn’t much existing demand from customers for the artist’s work. It is exceedingly tough to generate a sector for an artist who is no extended generating. Prospective buyers have no motive to anticipate that demand from customers that was not there in the course of the artist’s lifetime will instantly materialize upon his demise.

Some Guidelines for Making an Artist’s Passing Much easier on the Relatives and Estate

For all of the good reasons stated higher than, it is important that an artist get the job done to promote as much of his or her get the job done while nonetheless alive. I would also argue that you will enjoy the income far more while you are alive 😉

In addition to actively advertising and marketing your work and developing an audience, I would recommend carrying out the adhering to in preparation for your passing.

  1. Continue to keep an exact and entire stock of your function, which includes photos, proportions and descriptions.
  2. Include things like your wishes for the disposition of your artwork immediately after your passing in your will. Contain in-depth information and facts about any bequests of specific is effective.
  3. Explore with an estate/tax planner the monetary implications of the transfer of ownership of your perform on your passing. Passing your art on to loved ones members or other folks can incur a significant tax legal responsibility for the beneficiaries. The IRS may try out to tax the worth of your work at its complete retail benefit, a possible catastrophe for your family.

What Do You Believe?

Have you experienced the possibility to see what comes about to the worth of an artist’s operate on the artist’s death? Do you have ideas in location regarding the disposition of your function when you move? What would you advocate to the artist who wrote me, or to relatives that is making an attempt to choose what to do with a deceased artist’s perform? You should share your knowledge and thoughts in the responses under.



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