Hunting for Great Art

Antique and Art Exchange
3 min readJun 9, 2020
art antique hunting shopping san francisco antiques & Picasso

Few things will add more to your life than a great partner, a great pet, and, a great piece of art.

Early in my career I bought attractive and relatively inexpensive art. Price is not a good measure of quality however it is reasonable to say that it is unlikely that you will find an amazing piece for a low price.

I have found that Art Collectors usually are aware of any remarkable artwork they have in their collection. One of my earliest purchases was Picasso’s “Dove of Peace” complete with a certificate of authenticity for about $150.00. I was so pleased I couldn’t see straight!

Kind and polite dealers pointed me in the right direction. Still it was hard to sort out what I had bought. It was not in the Bloch book that held records and images of Picasso lithographs. The signature looked good and the image kept turning up with vague descriptions. I sold it to a friend for a modest amount and moved on believing I had bought a fairly common fake.

A few years later I learned the work was first a drawing by Picasso chosen as the emblem for the First International Peace Conference in Paris in 1949.The lithograph was made by someone else, and the signature probably a fake. The last one I saw for sale was $5000!

Not a bad price for Picasso but a very ambitious price for a copy.

A good friend was trying to sell his collections to support him through an illness. The artwork was and is still important.

It seems as though quite a few originals are being printed, now signed with an estate stamp as the artist passed away decades ago. The auction houses have several years of pieces worth to offer and the private market is either informed or wary. What was it is worth? He certainly paid handsomely for it but was unable to sell it at any high price during his lifetime.

We live in interesting times.

Clients of ours recently sold an Andy Warhol portrait and made out fairly well. The painting was acquired directly from the artist with documentation! This is essential!

Provenance is extremely important.

Not long ago I had a good work by a local artist that is now deceased.

His gallery sells his work for serious money and was willing to take one on consignment. Auction records were almost non-existent. I finally sold the painting to a friend for a fair price. He could take his time selling it and was glad to have it. I was pleased to.

Figure out what you like and what you can afford. Take your time and avoid the Wild West of the Internet at least at the beginning.

Find a dealer you like and learn as much as you can about the artist and their work.

A great piece lasts a lifetime.

My advice is:

1. Important artist generally have catalogue raisonné where all their known work is published.

2. Artists tend to work in predictable formats and sizes. Is the image the correct size? Is the paper the artists GoTo? Is the work the right age and most important can you put down a security deposit and take the work to hang in the office or your home for a few days? If the answer to this one is no then something may be up. You probably dodged a bullet.

3. Paintings should be examined under black light. The original work will be one color while the improvements will reflect another color. This will usually expose restoration or an added signature.

4. While most dealers will be happy to share all information they know about a piece, avoid running a dealer through their paces if you are simply curious.

Happy Hunting!



Antique and Art Exchange

We curate for designers and collectors for 25 years. Pieces range from curiosities to furniture that will make your home unique. San Francisco, CA. #aaxsf