Andy Warhol portrait

A how-to guide for fine art valuation in 2021

Photo by Nelson Ndongala on Unsplash

Throughout history, art has held itself as a noteworthy investment. From Pablo Picasso to Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet to Andy Warhol, Leonardo da Vinci to Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo to Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe to Rembrandt, Banksy to Damien Hirst, people are always vying to get their hands on some of the world’s most famous, and financially lucrative, art pieces. Thanks to art, we have been delivered with amazing paintings, sculptures and artefacts that have survived the test of time to tell a unique story of their era. But what if you’re looking to take out loans against art?

The big question we often get asked at Pawnbrokers Rodeo Drive is how does fine art get valued to ensure the right price is matched with the product? Within pawnbroking and lending, this is of key interest given the fact that many people choose to take out loans against art or choose to pawn paintings. It is a strong and secure way of regaining much-needed capital in a luxury market. Here is how to value a piece of art. If you’re thinking of taking out loans against art, or selling your art, it’s worth going through each of these steps before you visit an expert so you have a good idea of what value to expect.

Making a sound valuation: do your research


When it comes to valuing a picture or painting, the first thing to do is to research the artist in question. There are various websites online which will list thousands of different artists and the prices that their work has fetched at previous auctions. You will, therefore, be able to get an approximate idea of what the going rate is for similar pieces, and what people have previously been willing to pay.

This is, of course, no guarantee. Different pieces by the same artist can have vastly different values for a myriad of reasons. However, it enables you to find a ball-park figure to start working towards when pawning against fine art or taking loans against art. Some good websites to use for this are: and

Ensure it’s the real deal


Sadly, art forgery is active throughout the world and, even with the best of intentions, you may have come into possession of something that is not genuine, despite buying it with the belief that it was. If your fine art is not authentic, this will seriously affect the valuation. Identifying if something is original can be complicated. Unless you have bought the art from the artist themselves and have seen them producing it with their own hands, there is always going to be an element of doubt.

There are many questions to be asked about art forgery. For example, is the value of the work of art set within the price that a buyer is happy to pay, or is it attributed to the emotional impact that a piece of work has on an owner? Does it actually matter if the person who is said to have been the artist produced the work? Picasso, for example, was known for signing forgeries of his own works.

Many art galleries and auction houses have historically sold forgeries. In many cases, artwork that is ‘fake’ has been masqueraded as authentic for centuries, meaning it is very hard to establish exactly how life began for the piece of fine art. In many cases, value is often relative to the fulfilment that a piece of art gives – although there is no doubt that art that is irrefutably authentic can certainly command extraordinary prices – sometimes well into the millions. Vincent Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” sold in 1990 for $147 million, which was largely because there was immutable proof that it was genuine.

To identify whether a piece of art is genuine, it is always worth asking a third-party expert’s opinion. However, there are a few questions that are always worth asking. This includes: does the fine art look like other pieces created by the artist? Does it follow similar shapes, styles, colours, patterns, and so forth? Can it be explained by the evolution of the artist or does it stand out as contrasting? Is the signature on the painting consistent with other pieces produced from the same time period?

Were the materials being used actually available at the time of production? Does the canvas material, stretcher wood, nails and any other material show signs of ageing and distress? Does it look genuine or like it has been created for effect? Does it smell like tea (this is something forgers will often use to make a piece appear older than it really is)? They may also use varnish on the edges to simulate the yellowing from age. Also, do you have evidence to show its provenance, and documentation to show ownership and authenticity? Provenance is vital, and many accredited dealers will not take your piece without it.

Get a second opinion


When valuing art, it is always worth speaking to a professional dealer or auction house. They will be able to tell you more about the history of the artist or the painting if you are not sure who to attribute it to. They will also be able to spot the hallmarks of a genuine versus a replica and will have a good idea of what such a piece would fetch at auction.

You could either go into one of the best-known dealers or auction houses, or you could search online for dealers and galleries that specialise in the artist’s work that you have, or particular types of work if it is from a certain genre or era. Ideally, you want to look for galleries that are bound by a code of ethics, such as those which are members of the Fine Art Trade Guild. This helps to ensure you are getting a high-quality service from them. There is also the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) (which has ‘Red Book’ guidance) and the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers (SOFAA) who are appropriate professional bodies.

Ask the right questions before taking out loans against art

When getting your art valued, either to take out loans against art, you need to make sure you are asking the right questions when speaking with experts and valuers. This includes establishing if they are experienced in giving the type of valuation you require. Do they regularly get similar types of fine art or paintings to value? They will be able to give you examples of previous work if so. Also, do they have in-house or consultant experts on hand to help with the valuation?

What type of professional qualifications do they have? How are they regulated? Do they charge for their valuation services, and if so how is this done? Is there a minimum fee or does this vary depending on what the piece is worth and how many pieces are being valued? How long will a valuation take? Typically it is around 7 to 10 days. You may also want to find out whether you have to leave the art with them, how it is kept and secured if so, and how they will communicate with you throughout the process.

If you are based in London and looking to pawn your fine art you may want to visit the following website / webpages:  Andy WarholBernard BuffetDamien HirstDavid HockneyMarc ChagallRaoul DuffySean ScullyTom WesselmannTracey EminBanksy, and Roy Lichtenstein to name just a few.



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