Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Word Fall 2015

After the Antiques Roadshow wrapped up the last show of Season 20 in Charleston, South Carolina, we reflected a bit what this achievement meant to the forty or so appraisers who have been with the show since the beginning in 1996. None of us thought Roadshow would  make it to ten years much less twenty. We have welcomed many newcomers and said goodbye to several who have left the show for various reasons or have passed away. Although the ratings have leveled off since the peak in Season Four , in many ways the show is better. Specifically, Marsha Bemko has instituted a rigorous fact checking protocol and has been ready to clarify issues even after the segments have aired. As appraisers we pay our own way and are not compensated for our time. While participating in a television show is challenging and in many respects fun, clearly the greatest benefit for me is being afforded the opportunity of networking with other experts many of whom have become good friends. Additionally, I cannot say enough about the support and friendship of both the Roadshow staff and crew.

In the past auction houses and dealers were friendly adversaries. I see that changing as the art market becomes more integrated with the Internet. Auction houses provide  the platform for delivering art; however, the art expertise is now primarily in the private sector. This creates an interesting dynamic where auction houses often need consultants to catalog their sales. An argument could be made that the private sector provides important expertise in legal matters, art management, and maybe most importantly art appraisal. Managing client expectations are one of the most difficult challenges for an auction house specialist. You literally are only as good as your last sale. In the tribal art world the auction houses are a bit shaky at the moment David Roche, Sothebys Indian Art specialist has left for the directorship of the Heard Museum. Heinrich Schweitzer, Sothebys African specialist in New York  has joined the private sector. Jim Haas, Bonham's Indian art expert will retire soon. The performance of Heritage and Bonhams has been somewhat mixed. Skinner's Indian expert Doug Deihl has done an excellent job in managing client expectations and has by comparisons a very low ratio of lots that fail to sell. It will be very interesting to watch all this develop over the next twelve months.

Our now former Dallas Museum director, Max Anderson, has left Dallas and the museum world. In this issue I have provided a number of media sources covering Anderson's departure. It is pretty clear that while this director had some friends in Dallas, he certainly made enemies. It is not too difficult as the sources indicate that the departure was abrupt and not very friendly. One wonders what the potential backers that were invited to pay 200 million for the Da Vinci painting thought when later it sold for less than 80. In Toronto, New York, Indianapolis, and now Dallas  there seems to be patrons who have credibility issues with Anderson.  I personally am excited about future leadership that we hope will improve morale and bring a newer more pragmatic vision to the museum.  I am particularly interested to see what impact this departure will have on the Association of Art Museum Directors where Anderson led efforts to restrict the acquisition of objects that did not conform to the UNESCO Treaty Convention of 1970. This is a complicated issue that impacts museums, collectors, dealers, and scholars. Specifically it should be noted that the Pre-Columbian originating countries do not recognize 1970 as a firewall. More to come.

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