Wading in a pool of abstraction © Robert Sommers 2023

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Shoot the messenger

© Margaret Keane
It happens like clockwork, about one or two a week. Like the one I just had on the phone.

Because I am in the antique and art business, quite a few people believe that it is my lot in life to dole out free information. 

I should spend all my time doing gratis research so that I can tell them what their stuff is worth.

I just got off one of the calls and they usually go something like this:

"I have a painting by Joe Schlobotnik, of the Paducah Schlobotniks, what is it worth?"

Well, I don't know sir, why don't you text me a picture and I will see if I can help you. And exactly how did you get my number?

So I get the picture, and this particular one has no little or no resale value and little utility save the lining of a canary cage. But you can't say that without ruffling little yellow feathers so you might say something like, It appears to only have decorative value which is short for nobody but a blind man or a serial killer would walk closer than five feet from your canvas if they knew what was good for them.

Today's deep dive went like this; He: Aunt Agnes gave me this painting, what is it worth? Me: What do you want to do with it? He: I want to sell it, you ignoramus!

I took the time to look the auction records for this particular artist up on my subscription service (which I actually pay for) and read back the last ten auction figures, which were interspersed with a long list of failed to sell citations. Loser with a capital L.

"It appears that the highest figure your lovely piece has achieved in the marketplace of late is seventy one dollars. I am sorry to have to be the bearer of this news but your Schlobotnick is currently colder than a witch's nip in a brass bra."

I heard an audible gasp. Then he started to argue. You don't get it, he says, This is a special one where the artist puts wax on the velvet and you can actually see the child's tears in relief. And I know for a fact that one of these brought a hundred thousand once because the artist's son told me.

I hate this part. "Well, if you already know the answer, why exactly are you asking me the question? My records show that the guy never broke five hundred bucks on his best day. I have no idea what happens on the retail or secondary market. Good luck with everything."

It is honestly a tough deal. I try to let them down easy, often tell them that there is an ass for every saddle and that the law of probability assures that there is somebody in this big world of ours that will love the thing. Sorry I couldn't make them rich but it is really not my job or my problem. If I am lucky I get a please or thank you but let's just say I don't ever hold my breath waiting for that to occur either. 


Anonymous said...

Gee Rob, You could have at least suggested a secondary use for the wax on his velvet painting 😁

island guy said...

I applaud your kindness when snark is so easy. If you can be kind when offered a Keane even more so!