This week I sit down with Brooke Lampley, vice chairman of the fine art division at Sotheby’s. Lampley is a specialist in Impressionist and modern art, and previously ran that department at Christie’s, where she sold over a billion dollars of paintings and sculptures. She began her art career at the National Gallery, before moving on to the more commercial auctions houses. Crain’s named to it’s 40 under 40 list.
Our conversation about art is somewhat off our usual path of hedge fund managers and economists, but not as much as you might guess: issues of valuation, determining market prices, and auction process are key to the process of selling multi-million dollar artworks. Our timing was fortuitous: we discuss the recent sale of a DaVinci for $450 million dollars, who the buyer was, and what made that bidding so unusual.
Lampley explains how authenticity gets determined, the tools of the art appraiser, and why provenance is so importance. The issue of the subjectivity of valuation — for unique and highly sought after pieces — is also discussed. She also analyzes why auctions are the best way to set a market price for these works.
Art prices get driven by the specific pieces come to market rarely, often several decades apart. Some works of art are sensuous, romantic, radiantly beautiful, with incredibly lush surfaces and vivid colors — and these factors can determine why one painting by an artist might sell for $750,000 while another from the same artist sells for $7 million.
Some surprising data-points come up in our conversation: 60 percent of wealthy art collectors have never sold a piece; 40 percent have never had any of their works even appraised.
Some of her favorite books are referenced here.
You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras, on Bloomberg, iTunes, Overcast, and Soundcloud. Our earlier podcasts can all be found on iTunes, Soundcloud, Overcast and Bloomberg.
Next week, we speak with Ed Mendel, co-founder of Ned Davis Research, and part owner of the Atlanta Falcons.
Brooke Lampley’s Recommended Books
A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy, 1881-1906 by John Richardson (4-part series, this is book 1)
The Nix by Nathan Hill
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara