Location Matters for Art Sales- artmarketblog.com

Location Matters for Art Sales- artmarketblog.com

coffee-barAt a recent art auction that I attended here in Australia a couple of prints by Sybil Andrews attracted huge amounts of interest resulting in both selling for well above their estimates. This wasn’t really surprising considering the level of interest that there seems to be in the work of Sybil Andrews at the moment. What was surprising, however, was the estimates given by the auction house for each of the works. The first print auctioned was:

“Coffee Bar”
linocut in 4 colours, 1952
signed, titled and editioned 20/60
8 x 9 in, 20.3 x 22.9 cm
Estimate: AUD $5000 – $7000
Sold for AUD $9000

and the second was:

linocut in 3 colours, 1959
signed, titled and editioned 10/60
11 7/8 x 11 3/4 in, 30.2 x 29.8 cm
Estimate: AUD $7000 – $9000
Sold for AUD $8000

With Andrews being a Canadian artist I did a bit of research into the market for her work in Canada and found some rather interesting information. In November 2008 the same two prints were sold one after the other, just as they were in Australia, at an auction in Canada conducted by Heffel Fine Art Auction House. “Coffee Bar” sold for $17,550.00 CAD ($20,416.48 AUD) against an estimate of $10,000 ~ $15,000 CAD (11,676.89 AUD to 17,515.34 AUD) and then “Grader” sold for $8,775.00 CAD (10,249.81 AUD) against an estimate of $6,000 ~ $8,000 CAD ($7,006.36 AUD to $9,341.81 AUD). What is particularly interesting is that Heffel gave a considerably higher estimate to “Coffee Bar” than they did “Grader” where as here in Australia a slightly higher estimate was given to “Grader” over “Coffee Bar”. Why did this happen?. Well, without having asked the auction houses myself I cannot be 100% certain but I think I have a pretty good idea. Because these two works are inspired by a particular place in Canada where the artist lived it would be safe to assume that these works would have a different significance to Canadians than they would to Australians.

Considering that both prints are of the same edition size and same condition the difference in the estimates between the two prints in the Heffel auction would have to be due to another factor. Size can’t be a factor because “Grader” is larger than “Coffee Bar” which would have meant that the estimate for “Grader” would have been higher than “Coffee Bar” if size was a factor in this auction whereas the opposite was the case. Provenance couldn’t be a factor because neither print has a provenance that would be make the provenance of one print more valuable than the other. Even the year each of these prints was produced is quite close with “Coffee Bar” having been produced in 1952 and “Grader” in 1959. The difference in date may have been a contributing factor to the assigned values considering that the earlier work has a higher estimate but the effect on price would not be that great. Having ruled out the potential for the above factors to have had an effect on the price paid for these works the only real remaining factor is subject matter. There must have been something about the subject of “Coffee Bar” that had a greater significance for Canadian collectors.

The two prints sold in the Australian auction have the same credentials as the two prints sold in Canada with both having come from the same private collection and being of the same condition etc. Here in Australia, however, the estimates provided by the auction house suggest that the Australian market has different priorities and that the significance of each of these works differs to that of the Canadians. First of all, the subject matter appears to be of much less importance to Australian buyers than the Canadian buyers judging by the fact that the estimates provided for “Grader” and “Coffee Bar” are much closer together and do not seem to have been assigned due to the subject matter. In fact, the fact that the larger print has a higher estimate would suggest that the auction house thought that size of the work was of more importance than the subject matter. Date appears not to have been a factor because the later work has a lower estimate which is at odds with the higher value usually given to earlier works.

So, had the person who sold the two Sybil Andrews prints in Australia made arrangements for the works to be sold in Canada or had they marketed the sale of the works in Canada they may have been able to obtain a higher price. The potential for a higher price would be much greater for “Coffee Bar” as this work is obviously considered to be of greater value in Canada than “Grader”. In fact, the top price paid for a copy of “Coffee Bar” was reached in February 2008 in Canada where number 54 of the edition of 60 sold for $27,500 CAD ($31,771.11 AUD) which was, interestingly enough, achieved by an online auction conducted by Heffel auctions. Instead of the $9000 AUD achieved for “Coffee Bar” in Australia, the Australian seller of this work may have been able to get up to three times as much for the same work in Canada.

The amount of money you can get from the sale of a work of art can depends on many different things including the location of the sale. To maximise the potential sale price one needs to take into consideration the best location for the sale as the value of a particular work may be considerably different in different countries. If you aren’t interested in return on return on investment then the hassle of selling in another country may deter you from selling overseas but if maximising the sale price is important to you then the location of the sale should be carefully considered.


Sybil Andrews
CPE 1898 – 1992 Canadian

Coffee Bar
linocut in 4 colours 1952
signed, titled and editioned 20/60
8 x 9 pouces  20.3 x 22.9cm

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com,
writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for
Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

One Response

  1. Hi Nicholas!

    My dad and I have some pottery, ceramics and sculptures by Picasso. You are real on what you do and I would appreciate your insight on them. Please let me know, so I am able to send you pictures. Thank you and looking forward to hearing from you soon!

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