Tips For Fine Art Collectors

Caring for Your Fine Art Collection

Virginia Panizzon working in the art conservation lab.

Virginia Panizzon working in the art conservation lab.

I’m not sure I agree with the theoretical statistic that “only 5% of the world’s artworks will survive the next 100 years,” according to the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. But conservation and collection care are certainly inherent aspects of owning art.

Another statistic that I don’t agree with is “that it is estimated that 85% of damage to artworks happens during transit.” This may be a factor with contemporary art was it is shown, sold and hauled all over the place but it doesn’t ring true for the overall art work to me. So, it seems this article is more inspired by contemporary art.

But we do see, in our art conservation laboratory a lot of damage to paintings, across the board, from poor handling, shipping, storage and “vandalism.”

Art conservation is as much about preventative care as it is about restoration no matter what the age. When avoid damage there are some golden rules collectors can follow, particularly when handling and installing art.

With all works of art, proper wrapping and stacking are critical, and while the use of bubble-wrap is good, there must be a layer of acid-free tissue paper between the plastic and the artwork. I can tell you how many times I’ve seen the imprint of the bubblewrap cells on the artwork after storage for a short time. Also, it is important the bubbles face outwards because if one pops the chemicals released may leave marks on the artwork’s surface.

Special care is also required when stacking two-dimensional pieces. They must be face to face and back to back and with works of similar dimensions so that a smaller frame does not lean on the glass or the canvas of a larger one. This is a simple way to prevent damage such as tear in a canvas or breakage of glass. Easy release tape on glass is a great idea.

Light, heat and humidity are an artwork’s worst enemies, as are pollution and pests. While it is unrealistic to expect museum conditions in a private home, there are a few things collectors can do to best preserve art.

A quick real life example: we had a very nice painting in the lab for a cleaning only. Otherwise, this oil on canvas was a perfect condition. A few years later I paid a visit to the home of the art collector and noticed the painting hanging on the wall, CRACKED TO SMITHERENES as if it were 200 years old! I was flabergasted. What could have happened?!?! It was on an interior hallway wall, no direct sun… and then I noticed that the artwork had been hung directly under an air-conditioning and heating vent. Wide variations in heat and cold has artificially aged the painting!!! The cracking patterns looked exactly like an old painting. Wow, what a first class lesson.

Room temperature should ideally remain constant. As an indication, museums set the ambient range between 20°C and 22°C and regulate humidity levels at 50%. Humidity stresses works of art through contraction and expansion and can accelerate the growth of micro-organisms. But its most detrimental effect is the generation of carbonic acid to which works on paper are particularly vulnerable. The results are discolouration and foxing marks.

Fading and discolouration can never be reversed.

Foxing refers to the rust-coloured stains that appear on old paper. Nowadays, the use of acid-free board to frame art is a crucial measure against this type of deterioration.

When it comes to hanging, collectors should be aware that paintings, especially oils on canvas, are sturdier than works on paper and that photography is fragile. It is estimated that photography constitutes 40% of art insurance claims… but I’m not sure I agree with this stat either.

Today artists use a range of materials traditionally not intended for making art, such as industrial materials and found objects, but also unconventional substances such as dust, blood or dung (the Turner Prize winner Chris Ofili is best known for his paintings using elephant dung). These materials are unstable at best and their care poses unprecedented challenges.

Altered artworks 

The trend in conservation today is to preserve an artwork as close as possible to the state intended by the artist. Historically, poorly qualified craftsmen gave restoration a bad reputation due to heavy-handed interventions that altered artworks beyond their original state.

The Before Restoration photo is on the left!!  After Restoration by a heavy handed Russian restorer in the LA area... the client was devastated.

The Before Restoration photo is on the left!! After Restoration by a heavy handed Russian restorer in the LA area… the client was devastated.


Artists can exercise their droit moral (moral rights) over their art. They can disown an art piece that has been overtly modified. Excessive overpainting used to be very popular, but unwittingly highlights over time the different ageing processes between the new and the original paint.

Imperceptible and reversible restorations have become the holy grail and the most common conservation is cleaning with minimal retouching when necessary.

If an artwork is damaged, it is justified to resort to restoration to save it for posterity. However, art owners should choose carefully who they entrust their art to and bear in mind that poor remedial treatment can negatively affect the resale value.

Common interventions include the consolidation of flaking in paintings and the removal of surface dirt and yellowing varnish. Damage in transit, such as a perforated canvas, can be repaired with thin surgical needles and thread without leaving any visible scars. Severed threads can be glued together one by one with the use of a microscope to magnify the work area.

Foxing and water damage can be successfully removed with oxidising techniques and bore worm damage to frames can be contained by fumigation or by injecting special chemicals into the bore holes. Smoke and minimal fire damage can be cleaned up too.

Art conservators require an in-depth knowledge of art history and have to be proficient in various art practices, such as painting. But they also need an extensive knowledge of science and chemistry.

Modern conservation involves the use of scientific techniques such as infrared and ultraviolet methods, as well as X-rays and laser to analyse the condition of works before embarking on restoration.

With artists increasingly using a range of nontraditional materials, conservators have to constantly update their knowledge and methods to meet ever evolving demands.

Some art conservators work closely with contemporary artists to help them develop innovative solutions and quality materials that can stand the test of time.

• Scott Haskins has been in the field of professional conservation since 1975.

Scott M. Haskins Lining a 30 ft painting by Buck Winn

Scott M. Haskins Lining a 30 ft painting by Buck Winn

Questions? Call Scott M. Haskins, Virginia Panizzon, Oriana Montemurro Art Conservators 805 564 3438

Restore a Painting

Should you do the minimal amount of work or make it look its best?

(See the short video testimonial)Virginia Panizzon, Art Conservator

Virginia Panizzon, Art Conservator


Restoring a vintage oil painting often involves options of treatments to choose from. If you are not experienced in dealing with a painting conservator and choosing art restoration services, you may very understandably wonder what is the best thing for the painting.

The financial value of the artwork may be a guide by which collectors and curators make decisions for the conservation and preservation of their artwork. However, value is not always only given by its monetary reclaim. Historical value and personal or emotional value also give people good reasons to preserve their heirlooms and collectibles.

Maritime painting to be restored

Maritime painting to be restored

A professional art conservator can be a valuable consultant for you to make good decisions regarding your artwork. A good example would be in trying to decide whether it is in the best interest of the artwork to have everything possible done to restore the painting, like when a painting has had a lot of previous restorations. For a number of reasons, this may motivate only a partial restoration treatment.

Consider, for instance that it is very important to address the preservation problems before dealing with the aesthetic issues. For example, if a client doesn’t want to spend much money but they want to preserve the painting and if a painting is very dirty and flaking; we will forego the cleaning but stabilize the flaking in the best interest of preserving the artwork. Its easy to see how the stabilization of the unstable paint is most important.

We recently received a historical maritime painting with a lighthouse in the distance from c.1895. It had extensive multiple previous restorations. Several large rips and holes had been repaired (and were still quite visible), a very poor quality cleaning had been done (maybe more than once) unevenly removing a very discolored varnish. Extensive over-abundant repainting (retouching) changed original features over most of the painting.

Even though it looked pretty rough, the general condition of the artwork was stable. In other words, there was no flaking or other signs of falling apart. The particular feature that really bothered the owner was the dark repainting of the water in the foreground which eliminated the water details and the owner said it looked to her like “the ship was sailing on land.” Here’s a quick video testimonial…

So, in this case, our client’s primary concern was to clean the water in the foreground and recuperate the details of the water.  It was not possible to clean the entire painting without removing all the previous retouchings and exposing all the extensive damage and increasing the budget dramatically. While doing a complete restoration was definitely possible, it didn’t make sense to the owner given the financial value of the painting.

The owner may have made a different decision if this had been her grandfather’s ship or if her ancestor’s had immigrated on this ship. So, you can see there are different motivations for decisions. As long as the artwork is stable, the decision about the appearance is subjective.

The photo below is the grandmother of the present owner. It was sent to a well advertised Russian immigrant restorer who repainted the portrait. Horrified, the only option was to try and recoup all of the original by removing all of the oil paint repainting. So, in this case, the motivation for a complete and proper painting conservation treatment was justified by the owner independent of the financial value.

Restoration by the Russian Restorer meant repainting

Restoration by the Russian Restorer meant repainting


After repainting removal - back to its original appearance

After repainting removal – back to its original appearance


Professional art conservation adheres to standards of practice and ethics when it comes to treating artwork to preserve its original and historical integrity and in business practices with clients.


See a short video tour of Fine Art Conservation Laboratories:

Call us to discuss your questions. Free evaluations at your home or business. Pick up and delivery. Highest quality professional art conservation work, standards of practice and ethic.  Damaged art insurance claims.

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Scott M. Haskins, Virginia Panizzon, Oriana Montemurro, Art Conservators

805 564 3438 office

805 570 4140 mobile

Oil Painting Rip Repair – Las Vegas – Steve Wynn’s Picasso

Picasso in his workshop When Steve Wynn put his elbow through his $165 million Picasso, he probably got more world-wide publicity value that the painting was worth!! And that doesn’t include the “help” in selling the “damaged” painting through the insurance settlement, which was substantial. He “made out like a bandit” but then again that shouldn’t surprise anyone when talking about people that do business and collect on his level.

You’ll remember when the Sunflowers by Van Gogh sold for $85 million and was the most expensive painting ever sold, at the time? Years later, when the Japanese insurance company that bought the painting resold it to an Australian, they declared that they calculated that they received more international publicity for their company than they could have bought for the $85 million!!!… AND then they sold the painting for a profit resulting in years of mega-free publicity!! They were very happy about the resounding success of their business strategy.

The elbow-through-the-painting-fiasco happened years ago but I’m still asked about what I think about the matter (mostly for entertainment value I think) and I’m asked if I was called to work on the painting, since we do so much work and we are the only firm providing professional painting conservation services in Las Vegas (there are other restorers but we won’t talk about that…). Here’s a quick video review of our art conservation work in LV.

Art Conservation Las Vegas The work of correctly and professionally repairing the “ding” in the painting is not that big of a deal in art conservation treatment terms. I accept that Picasso is the most influential artist of the 20th century but just because its by Picasso doesn’t make it art materials-wise or technically, unique. I’m sure, though that there are a myriad of political issues involved beyond the simple repair. I haven’t seen the painting nor have I seen any documentation of the damage. But having read the accounts of the damage, I envision what was needed to be done to bring the painting back to as close to “pre-existing conditions” (an insurance term) as possible, was at most a job of a couple of $1,000s. But I heard that the final bill was around $65,000… so it sounds like there is more to the drama than we’re heard.

My Dad had a saying, “The definition of an “expert” is someone who’s from out of town.” While I’m involved with a couple of conservation projects in Italy as an out-of-town consulting expert  ( I can see that the same is true for Steve Wynn’s expert art conservator. My comment here is not a negative comment regarding the skills of the art conservator that did the work on the painting and I’m sure she is extremely skilled and well acquainted with Picasso’s paintings.  You’ll be interested to read the following article about the French art conservator that is imported to work on the collection’s paintings:

This short video shows you the step by step process of repairing a rip but also includes the backing or lining process which I’m not sure was performed on Wynn’s Picasso:

Repair a rip in an oil painting - Las Vegas

Want to know more about FACL?

Fine Art Conservation Laboratories (FACL, Inc.) has been Providing professional painting restoration services since 1986 and Scott M. Haskins, Chief Painting Conservator has been working in the field since 1975

Click here for background information:

Click here for FACL’s YouTube channel:

Feel free to call or write if you have questions:

Scott M. Haskins

805 570 4140 mobile – 805 564 3438 office

If you would like to know more about what you can do to protect and preserve your original family history items, collectibles and memorabilia click on this link for a free copy of Scott M. Haskins’ book Save Your Stuff – Collection Care Tips, 210 pages with 35 embedded how-to videos.

CLICK HERE  for our YouTube channel to see a quick video on Discovering Hidden Signatures on Paintings!




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Examine a Painting with UV Light Art Collector Use of Black Light

If you invest seriously, then you understand the concept of “due diligence.” Never was this caveat more applicable than in the purchase of art and antiques. But I constantly talk to veterans in the art field that think that looking at a painting with a black light is child’s play and that all you need to look for is a purple spot to ID the previous restoration.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are so many reasons why a retouching would not show up under UV… and you, as a serious collector, MUST know the ins and outs of this diagnostic tool.

The painting in the video, above, is worth $X. I ask you, what is the difference in purchase price between the painting in virgin condition and the painting with the damage along the top as you have seen? My experience is, given the repairs, the price drops 10-30% depending on how rare and desirable the artwork is. So, just because the previous retouching didn’t glow purple and the fraudulent seller didn’t disclose the condition are you happy about paying 30% more? Maybe if this were a $300 painting you wouldn’t care… but its not a $300 painting. Yet, this condition was completely discoverable if you had received and embraced a bit of education.

Questions? Call Scott M. Haskins, Fine Art Conservator, 805 564 3438

Valuable Ripped Oil Painting Is Thrown in the Trash!

A damaged, ripped vintage oil painting from about 1915 of Saint Mark’s Square in Italy by American expatriot artist Colin Campbell Cooper was pulled from a dumpster by an antiques scavenger and sold to an art dealer who knew the works of the artist. Most people would have thought the painting with several rips and punctures was a total loss. But George Stern, 3rd generation art dealer in West Hollywood, California had seen before the magic that can be performed on very damaged artwork… and he “knew a guy.” Here is the quick video of the painting’s resurrection and thankful return to it’s former glory…

Valuable Ripped Painting

 So, did the excellent quality repairs of the ripped painting on canvas add back all the lost value of the damaged work of art? Was it “worth it” to spend the money on this ripped up rag… or is it a good investment? Well, this is “the game” art dealers play, to one degree or another, all the time…

First of all, ask yourself, what is the artwork worth all ripped up? Asking a certified appraiser would be a wise move. Its likely that the art appraiser might also offer a guess of what it might be worth after art conservation treatments. But it doesn’t take an expert to see the value in its damaged condition is a fraction of what it was before being damaged. Can all that lost value be recouped? The short answer: Not all of it, usually… but it depends.

If this extremely badly ripped up painting could look perfect after excellent quality painting restoration, then how much of the lost value is added back?

Its logical that even though IT LOOKS perfect, you won’t get the same price as if it were an undamaged equivalent. Consider also that the quality of the repair can make all the difference in the world, a quality that goes beyond just looking good.

As was said, the value depends. If you get the painting for free and you spend $3-5K for its resurrection, and if you then could sell it for $25K, you’ve hit a small lottery. But if you bought the painting for $75K and you don’t have insurance for the damage then you are going to take a loss.

Information about value of damaged artwork should be run by a certified appraiser who knows the market for the specific artist or the style of the artwork. If you have a specific question about value, call art appraiser Richard Holgate at 805 895 5121 and tell your story to him.

Here’s a valuable referral: As was said, George Stern, the art dealer in this true story, knew “a guy.” That guy was the veteran and esteemed art conservator for the Colin Campbell Cooper Estate for many years who had worked closely with Sherrill Hendersen, the artist’s grand niece. The painting conservation skills of Fine Art Conservation Laboratories have been demonstrated many times for George Stern Fine Arts over the decades. Here is a quick video of George Stern’s recommendation of their work:

S.Marks Square AC

And, again, using a work of Cooper as an example, the authentication of authorship of paintings is often a question on lost and forgotten artwork. Infrared reflectography is often used to see through layers of paint to see lost signatures. Here is a short video about that technology used to discover a hidden signature of Colin Campbell Cooper: This is a very educational YouTube channel for art collectors; subscribe.

Pigment identification is also a process in art authentication. Here’s an entertaining clip in Keeping Up With The Kardasians when they wondered if an inherited painting was the “real deal.” Modigliani Authen 7 min.mp4. Note: the Kardasians called upon the same art conservator as George Stern to help resolve their mystery.

Contact info Scott M. Haskins with art conservation questions: 805 564 3438

Appraisal info: Richard Holgate 805 895 5121

George Stern Fine Arts: 310 276 2600

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Ripped fishing boats BC Badly ripped when it fell off its hanging nail

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Was the Mona Lisa Painted Twice? Well, actually…

Maybe 30 years ago I was visiting the conservation lab at the LA County Museum of Art and was surprised to see on the easel the Mona Lisa. I was mostly surprised because I knew that the one we’ve all seen never leaves the Louvre… so, what was THIS!?!?

I had just completed a long stint in Italy studying art and looking at this revered painting closely it seemed to walk like a duck and quack like a duck so…

After the Conservation Scientist, John Twilley, that I was visiting let me stew in my thoughts for a few minuted he said something that floored me, “There are five of them. They all look good, but a couple are probably copies. A couple may have been done by Leonardo. Maybe a couple by his workshop” It was really fun to see up close. They never let you get that close in a museum. I love being behind the scenes and “talking shop” with others in my field.

I’m often asked about analyzing and authenticating art. If this subject interests you, you’ll like this article…

Could this new <em>Mona Lisa</em> be Leonardo da Vinci's first attempt to capture art history's most iconic portrait sitter?

A purported version of the world’s most iconic painting, Leonardo da Vinci‘s Mona Lisa, has surfaced in Singapore, and appears to show a younger Mona Lisa in front of a different background. Said by its owners to be by the hand of the Renaissance master, the painting is thought to predate that of Paris’s Louvre by a decade, and is claimed to have undergone scientific analysis that dates the piece to 1503.

Now being shown publicly for the first time at the Arts House in Singapore’s Old Chambers of Parliament, the story being put forth about this unfinished painting is as follows. It’s said to have been purchased by an English noble visiting Italy in 1778. It was rediscovered by British art collector Hugh Blaker in 1913 in Somerset, and became known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa after it was restored in his London studio.

The canvas, which has belonged to an international consortium since 2008, has now embarked on a tour of the Pacific, with stops in Hong Kong, China, South Korea, and Australia.

One of the new painting’s champions is Switzerland’s Mona Lisa Foundation, which manages the paintings and began attesting to its authenticity in 2012. “We feel these latest discoveries and new scientific analysis just carried out leave little doubt that it is Leonardo’s work,” foundation vice-president David Feldman told Reuters. ”The vast majority of experts now either agree with us or accept that there is a strong case for our thesis.”

The two versions of Leonardo da Vinci's <em>Mona Lisa</em> side by side.

Of course, it could also be that this Mona Lisa is just another Leonardo forgery, of which there are many (see “A Tale of Two Leonardos“). Leonardo expert Martin Kemp has been quick to voice his skepticism, warning the BBC that ”the fact it’s being shown in Singapore and is not getting an outing in a serious art museum [or] gallery is significant in itself,” and criticizing the work’s landscape and drapery as “inert.”

Should the painting prove authentic, it would seem to debunk at least part of the theory of art historian Angelo Paratico, who recently voiced speculation that the iconic canvas’s sitter was none other than the artist’s mother, and that she was both Chinese and a slave (see “Was the Mona Lisa Leonardo’s Mother and a Chinese Slave?“). If the newly unveiled version of the painting really does date to 1503, it seems to depict a woman in her 20s, even though Leonardo would have been around 50 years old at the time. (The Mona Lisa is more widely believed to be Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of a Florentine merchant.)

The Isleworth Mona Lisa is the third known copy of the painting, joining the well-known Louvre version, and a more obscure one held at the Pradoin Madrid. Recent comparisons of those two paintings, now thought to have been painted during the same portrait sitting, have raised speculations that together they form a stereoscopic or 3-D image, perhaps the first in history (see “Was Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa the World’s First 3-D Image?“).

Follow @sarahecascone on Twitter.

Thug Who Punched $10 Million Monet Painting Convicted

Claude Monet's Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat (1874), after Shannon punched it<br>Photo: SWNS via Metro

Andrew Shannon, the man who punched a hole through a Claude Monet painting worth $10 million in June 2012, has been sentenced to five years in prison, Metro reports.

The attack took place at the National Gallery of Ireland, in Dublin, where Shannon attacked a Monet painting, entitled Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat (1874), and then shouted at the group of shocked gallery visitors who had witnessed the scene. The security guard who restrained Shannon shortly after found a can of paint stripper on the vandal.

In an attempt to diminish his responsibility, Shannon claimed at the Dublin Crown Court that he “felt faint” and fell into the painting. Yet, evidence suggests otherwise. The incident was recorded on the museum’s CCTV cameras, which show Shannon deliberately punching the artwork. After seeing the footage, the jury needed only 90 minutes of deliberation before finding him guilty.

Moreover, according to the Express, when police raided Shannon’s house in Dublin last April, they found 48 stolen items worth more than €100,000, including valuable artworks, books, and antiques. They were identified as having been stolen from Dublin, Belfast, and Yorkshire, some of them back in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Shannon was a big threat to society,” a source at the Dublin Crown Court told the Irish Mirror. “He has a corrupt perversion of the mind, [he is] a complete sociopath.”

The convicted criminal will not be allowed in any gallery for 15 months after his release.

Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat is now back on display in the Dublin institution, after having been restored.

The CCTV cameras at the Dublin museum recorded the attack<br>Photo: National Gallery of Ireland via Metro

200 year old painting newly restored returns to Mission San Juan Capistrano

A 200 year old painting that is original to the mission but had fallen into disrepair was covered over and hidden for 40 years in the Mission San Juan Capistrano’s Serra Chapel. Newly discovered a few months ago, the deplorable condition of this pre-eminently important painting for the mission was immediately slated for painting restoration.


The unveiling of the restored painting came five months after art conservators transported the painting to Santa Barbara to the state of the art lab for the careful process aimed at stabilizing and preserving the work of art and then restoring it back to an appropriate appearance for the mission.

“This irreplaceable painting is part of the Station of the Cross collection of paintings that were part of the original Mission San Juan Capistrano in the early 1800s”, the mission said.



Scott M. Haskins, art conservator explaining details to the group gathered for the inauguration of the return of the painting to the mission.

Experts suspect the painting had been hanging in Serra Chapel since 1922. “When art conservators lifted the painting from the wall, they found a Los Angeles newspaper from April 13 of that year”, said Scott Haskins, the art conservator who handled the restoration with his team from Fine Art Conservation Laboratories in Santa Barbara.

Haskins said a “dump truck of rat poop” fell from the wall when he removed the painting, which was attached with a single screw, but held in place by a huge plaster architectural mold used as a frame.

The painting, 10 canvases sewn together, was larger than expected. Parts of the canvas were wrapped around the bottom and top, including the Hebrew version of the phrase atop the cross: “Jesus Christ, King of the Jews.” Reverend Monsignor Arthur A. Holquin stated this was a most important discovery and added importance to the spiritual message of the artwork.

The Latin version of the phrase has flaked off. The Greek version has always been visible.

n5a4fx-b8857219z.120140508163841000g25206fk.10Uncovering the bottom of the painting also revealed a key detail: the artist responsible for it. Jose Francisco Zervin’s name had been covered by the painting’s frame until Haskins and his team removed it from the wall. The date is also present; 1800

The art conservators at FACL, Inc. mounted the stabilized painting to new stretchers made of aluminum to stabilize the back of the painting and fix deep sags in the canvas. After the paintings flaked areas were retouched, the painting was varnished.

Inspecting the details of the  frame restoration

Inspecting the details of the frame restoration

Haskins expected to place the painting back in its architectural molding frame to hang in the chapel, but the frame turned out to be dangerously unstable. A screw holding a section of the frame to the wall was barely connected to the wall and fell as the team was rehanging the painting. He caught the heavy frame section before it landed on the head of the person below. He said it could have killed someone had an earthquake dislodged it while tourists were visiting. The Fine Art Conservation Laboratory team spent 10 days dismantling the frame and rebuilding it. “This installation significantly upgraded the seismic protection features of this frame,” Haskins said.

A 40-year-old replica that hung over the original painting for decades is now in storage at the mission. Its painter, William Maldonado, attended Wednesday’s unveiling and said the restored work is “beautiful. “It’s as I feel it could have or should have looked,” Maldonado said. The Mission Preservation Foundation plans to focus on preserving the Sala Building next and may consider displaying the replica painting there, said Mechelle Lawrence Adams, executive director of the mission.

Pamela Hagen of Laguna Beach took her grandchildren, 8-year-old Hana and 7-year-old Lyric, to see the unveiling. She said the original painting was hanging in the chapel when she was baptized there as a baby. “It’s beautiful, and now we’ll have it for a very long time,” Hagen said.

n5a4fw-b8857219z.120140508163841000g25206f7.10Lawrence Adams scheduled the unveiling of the restored painting to coincide with National Historic Preservation Month. She said the painting is “sort of a symbolic representation of what we all go through as people. Sometimes we get a little fatigued. We get worn out and we just need something to come in and bring us back to life,” she said. “For a lot of people that come here at the mission, that’s the idea of faith.”

Art conservation questions: Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438

Contribute to the restoration of important historical works at Mission San Juan Capistrano and have your family’s name associated with the important historic spiritual center: Call Jennifer Ring 949 234 1369

What Is A Collectible Worth? Risk Management Issues

What is junk and what is a treasure? Is it authentic? What is something worth? This is the mystery and business ofScott M. Haskins collectibles, antiques, memorabilia and art industry and the appeal behind the Antiques Roadshow. As you might imagine, just anybody’s opinion about what you have will NOT be sufficient, appropriate nor probably accurate information.

Here is the personal story of a client of mine about being involved with Antiques Roadshow. “Participating in the whole process and affair is quite interesting. It is pretty well organized, in spite of all the people. It takes about 2 hours, start to finish, of standing in lines. It might be disappointing to you in that they may not have an appraiser who is specialized in your item after you’ve gone to all the trouble to show up. I took a painting in to be evaluated and the appraiser actually thought the portrait of the Russian Tsar was of English Prince Edward. Amazing. The appraiser did not really “get” the idea that the value of the painting lies in the history of this person, a painting actually “of the moment” of the Russian Revolution. She kept reiterating that the “condition” of the painting was not good (it had been bayoneted, shot, ripped from its frame, rolled up and smuggled to safety). So, actually the whole experience was pretty disappointing for me, also because the Antiques Roadshow is severely prejudiced and really emphasizes American pieces.”

The value of an antique or work of art, of a collectible or item of memorabilia can have an impact on people for lots of reasons, as you might guess: family history items document a family’s heritage and legacy and therefore contain strong emotional value that probably cannot be insured; Memorabilia items document our lives, loves and experiences like our favorite team or movies or movie stars or cars. The memorabilia sales industry is all about “investing” in those memories. And, of course, investing in vintage art and antiques has been a popular asset class for millennia. Many items, both collectible and memorabilia, may have important historical value and may be of interest to other people in a locale, region or nation.

Collectibles can be an investment or something that "holds" our memory.

Collectibles can be an investment or something that “holds” our memory.

So, given that an item may have tremendous emotional power, significant historical importance or a solid financial value… what is something worth? Consider these questions about the items for which you are the “curator.”
1. Can your treasured item be scheduled on an insurance claim in case of damage or loss? Is it insurable? (a painting, yes… vintage family photos, no?)
2. If the building were going up in smoke, would you be heartbroken about loosing which of your items?
3. If your item is damaged, will it be worth restoring? Would you restore it even if the financial value was less than the appraised value because it has emotional or historical value?
4. Is your item valuable to others you know (are you a caretaker)?
5. Are you aware that the financial valuation (appraisal) will be different in the case of insurance coverage, probate, donation, auction sale or gallery sale?
6. Will you get a different evaluation from a garage sale appraiser than from a professional specialist who knows or can research the history, provenance and specialized regional sales for the item? The professionalism and expertise of the appraiser can make a HUGE difference in your expectations from sales, from settling IRS issues, settling estate issues and settling insurance claims.

So, if I ask you what are you doing to protect your investment in collectibles and treasured family history items, would you have a blank look on your face? The above questions bring up a number of risk management questions that should be extremely important to you!

Let’s talk specifically about paintings
For many centuries, maybe millennia, paintings have served as the best representation that demonstrates the quality, prestige, style, and class of their owners and patrons. Why else do you think notable hotelier, Steve Wynn, shares his magnificent collections with his guests? It doesn’t take many of these valuable paintings to be worth even more than a resort or casino! By proxy, these works of art allow the owner to share in the famous reputation of the artist and connect with the works’ cultural ties. Keeping track of all this history, value, importance, and prestige is called the “provenance.” If you collect valuable art, you know you must keep the documentation that establishes this history and background of the artwork safe (see hurricane story below). Even if your artwork isn’t an important work by Picasso, you still are interested in whose hands your artwork has passed throughout the ages. Its easy to see why so many people value these works of art and have an emotional and deeply rooted historical connection to them.

With no other class of collectible does it happen that the value of the artwork on the walls exceeds the value of the building. Some of my clients refer to paintings as “moveable real estate.”

A True Story Illustrates My Point. . .
I recently removed two murals (paintings from the 1930’s on canvas glued to walls) from a public building in Idaho that was about to undergo asbestos/ lead paint abatement and updating the building to code. The two 9’ paintings were valued at $1.4 million each! Combined, they were more than the building and took the general contractor’s breath away at the thought of damaging them during his work.

But, as I have mentioned, value is not always expressed in financial terms. I had in my lab a portrait of the “who-knows-how-many-greats-ago” grandmother pioneer of the owner. During the United States’ sesquicentennial celebrations, the original pioneer portrait was loaned out for a pioneer display. During the day, it fell off of its pioneer tripod and onto a pioneer bedpost. Disaster! Did anybody argue about the $3,000.00 price tag to make the damage go away? No, because even though the actual financial value ranged in the $350.00 range (and now that it was damaged, it was less), there was high historical value. And what are you going to do, leave great grandma with a hole in her head? For another interesting story (with videos) of the value of an heirloom, click here: “Heirlooms may be treasured but are they worth protecting?”

That reminds me of another similar sad story: A woman called me one day quite upset, but wouldn’t talk about the damage to her family portraits until I went to her office in the San Francisco Bay Area. She had broken up with her boyfriend, and in a fit of rage he had taken a knife and viciously attacked her three family portraits in her office, shredding them to pieces (could this happen from a disgruntled employee?!). By the way, we made them look perfect again—but what a disaster!

In other words, for many, having paintings is not just a way to decorate the office. Whatever type of artwork you have in your office, its important to assess your needs and understanding the disaster preparation tasks for these types of items: It should be a major part of your emergency preparedness plan if you have paintings.

Where do you keep the records of your collection?

Oil and acrylic paintings are usually not at risk with fading but many other types of collectibles are!!!

Oil and acrylic paintings are usually not at risk with fading but many other types of collectibles are!!

A Florida client of one of my associates is a major corporate collector. They had an insurance policy, but when a hurricane ripped off the roof and planted a 150-foot yacht on the front lawn, many of his paintings were blown away, never to be seen again. Those that remained were soaked with sea water and in truly bad shape.

When he made his claim for his fine art losses, he was asked to prove the quality of the art and provide documentation to prove the condition of each work of art being claimed previous to the hurricane. These are two important points that can make a huge difference in the value. Unfortunately, his supporting documentation was also destroyed in the storm. A battle ensued with the insurance company that was never resolved satisfactorily for the corporation. This entanglement could have been avoided even though the damage by the hurricane could not have, perhaps.

Paintings, more than any other art form, convey to your clients, public, and competitors an image of status and quality of your business or company. Your art collection tells others you are educated and knowledgeable, and if you collect the right kind of art it will represent that you are at the “top of the food chain” in affluence and savoir faire. It’s been this way for thousands of years.

No matter the value of the artwork, be it Old Master or contemporary, an oil or on paper behind glass, you can see how these items make up the image and contribute forcefully to the company culture. Don’t take lightly the importance of protecting, preserving and the risk management of these collectibles and memorabilia.

Take an Inventory
There are lots of reasons to have art besides just owning a financial asset. Here is an assessment checklist to help jog your memory about what you have. Check off what you think you have, and keep in mind there may be some overlap.
* Oil paintings
* Acrylic paintings, Ancestors’ portraits, Inherited heirlooms, Family portraits
* Founders’ portraits
* Portraits of company officials, high mucky-mucks
* Purely decorative artwork (little or no financial value)
* Art collected for the love of art, indifferent of value or status
* Investment-quality paintings
* Artwork that represents accomplishments, projects
* Gifts from clients, dignitaries, sponsors
* Artwork that represents your company’s soul, like philanthropic work, causes you sponsor, important travel experiences
* Your children’s art or paintings done by other family members
* Souvenirs, items bought while traveling
*Other people’s property (artwork) in your care—your responsibility *Inherited assets from mergers or settlements

Also to be considered important to protect and preserve, following list of items you may need in case of an insurance claim (and therefore in an effort to protect your financial holdings). You will want to consider the following documentation for each and every work of art:
• A high-quality photograph to document the quality
• Receipts for acquisition and expenses
• A report narrating the condition, previous restorations, etc.
• An appraisal. For an accurate financial assessment of some of these items, it makes sense to contact a reputable art appraiser. For more information contact, Mr. Richard Holgate, International Society of Appraisers, (805) 895-5121, jrholgate@
• A copy of the type of insurance coverage
• Specific historical papers, documentation of exhibitions, copies of publications about the artwork
• Remember to keep a copy of all this documentation in a second location, preferably outside your area.

Scott M. Haskins is a professional painting conservator. Questions? Call 805 564 3438 or

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Patch a Painting? Here’s the Proof!!

I’m often asked, “Should I patch a painting on canvas”? When I answer that there are a myriad of problems that result in the long term preservation and appearance of the artwork, the “listener” doesn’t seem to get it, because I’m often asked as a follow up, “Well, what about acrylic paintings on canvas” or “What about new paintings”? Let me be clear about this: Patching a rip or a hole should be avoided on ALL PAINTINGS ON CANVAS. Its a quick and cheap technique of art restoration in the low quality category.

Here is a photos of a painting that came into the lab today…
DSC00856 low res

You’ll have to take my word for it that the bulges correspond to patched done in the last 25 years (I’m guessing).

A collector should be aware that patching is not a quality type of painting conservation treatment. So, you can negotiate with a seller, if you are buying, based on this knowledge that you now have… or you can avoid looking bad yourself by having this poor quality work done. A poor patching job and its adverse affects can also have an affect on the appraised value.

The follow up question, when the person asking the questions realizes that patching is not a good option, “Well then, how can I repair a hole?!?!?” That is not the subject of this blog post. But here is a video on patching a painting and you can find other videos from there that show how to fix a ripped canvas painting. Hopefully, you’ll watch my video on the subject and see how its done correctly.

Art conservation questions” Call Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438
Art appraisal questions? Call Richard Holgate at 805 895 5121


Copyright © Tips For Fine Art Collectors 2010.