Valuation and appraisal of Aboriginal art works is a skilled and specialised activity. We receive many inquiries about the value of particular Aboriginal paintings and the way that owners might sell these works. While we will try to answer general inquiries about Aboriginal art, and about specific artists, we do not give valuations or appraisals of paintings. Appraisals and valuations are formal documents used for tax, insurance, charitable contribution, financial planning and other purposes.
We also receive inquiries about investment in Aboriginal art – see our page on Aboriginal Art Investment.
Aboriginal Art Online specialises in selling contemporary works obtained by working directly with Aboriginal communities and artists and a limited number of art galleries. We do not buy paintings on the secondary market or from other sources (such as the owners of individual paintings). While this is a completely sound and ethical practice, it is not at the moment part of our business. We prefer to work with Aboriginal communities and artists to ensure that they receive a good return for their work – and so that our clients are able to select from a wide range of work at competitive prices.
Australian Art Sales Digest Valuation Service
Australian Art Sales Digest will provide an estimate of the market value of an artwork for a fee ranging from $75 for one painting or $150 for a premium service where the value of the art work is likely to be over $5000. Estimates are made by approved valuers for the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program (see below), and are provided within 2 or 3 days. They analyse the available market data and give a price range of comparable works sold at auction by the artist.
Auction House free appraisals
Several auction houses offer a free auction appraisal service for art works. Three of the auction houses that hold auctions of Aboriginal art and that have relevant in-house specialists are:
Bonhams are planning two Aboriginal Art auctions each year, to be held in the Spring and Autumn in Sydney. Two staff (Francesca Cavazzini and Greer Adams) have been employed by Bonhams as Specialists in Charge of the Aboriginal Art Department. The department is advised by Tim Klingender (former Director of Aboriginal Art at Sotheby’s Australia). To arrange a free auction valuation with a view to selling in their auctions, first inquiries should be sent to Tim Klingender at Bonhams.
Deutscher and Hackett
Deutscher and Hackett is a leading Australian fine art auction house with a strong reputation. They have gallery and auction premises in Melbourne and Sydney where members of the public can bring works for appraisal (appointments are required).
Deutscher and Hackett hold two major auctions each year dedicated to Aboriginal art; these are accompanied by excellent catalogues. Their Head of Aboriginal Art is Crispin Gutteridge.
Menzies Art Brands
Menzies Art Brands consists of two companies, Deutscher-Menzies and Lawson-Menzies, both chaired by the Sydney businessman Rod Menzies. They claim to hold the “dominant position as Number 1 market leader in Australian art auction sales”.
Deutscher-Menzies or Lawson-Menzies offer a full range of valuation services. The most common types of valuations that people request are for insurance and auction purposes. In addition to these, the company is able to provide formal valuations for probate, capital gains tax, asset management and other purposes.
They offer a free assessment of potential auction values for various items, including Aboriginal art. For an assessment by one of their specialists, you may bring your items, or photographs of them, into their rooms in Sydney or Melbourne. An appointment is advisable. You can also contact their representatives in various parts of Australia, or seek an eValuation as an online service.
Sotheby’s is one of the world’s leading art auction houses and they have established a strong reputation in the sale of Aboriginal art. Sotheby’s Australia offers auction estimates on Aboriginal art, provided that the items do not fall below their minimum consignment values. An auction estimate is a range of prices (e.g. $1,500-2,000) that Sotheby’s specialists believe a piece might bring at auction. Auction estimates are subject to change based on first hand inspection of the item.
To get an auction estimate on an item (subject to the qualification above), Sotheby’s offers the following choices:
Use their auction online valuation service. Fill out the valuation form, including details of makers’ marks, dimensions and notes of any damage and attach some good, clear digital images of the object.
Bring the item to one of Sotheby’s offices for a free appraisal (but note that not all offices will have a relevant specialist on staff). The contact in Sotheby’s Melbourne office is D’Lan Davidson.
Attend one of the regional valuation days organized by Sotheby’s Regional Office network – dates are usually advertised locally.
Sotheby’s also has experts in a range of fields, including Aboriginal art, who are able to provide appraisals and valuations. Fees are charged for a formal appraisal and valuation.
Approved Australian Government Valuers
The Australian Government has prepared a list of approved valuers for the purposes of its Cultural Gifts Program. The Web page for the Cultural Gifts Program has a link which allows you to download a current list of these approved valuers (which includes a number of people specifically approved to value Aboriginal art and artefacts).