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Art Valuer

Art valuers provide advice on how much a work of art or collections of artwork are worth when people want to buy, sell or insure them. Artworks include paintings, sculpture, furniture, silver, jewellery, clocks and other collectables. Many art valuers specialise in a particular subject or period, eg 18th-century British painting. They examine each object to gather information about and examine any documents relating to the object, such as purchase receipts or letters describing how the document came into the possession of the owner. The valuer produces a written valuation report for the client. Some valuers also conduct auctions.

Art valuers usually work a standard number of hours each week, from Monday to Friday. Evening and weekend work may be required to visit clients or attend special events. Most art valuers are based in offices, but they often visit clients at home or at their business premises. They may also visit libraries, galleries and museums. There are sometimes opportunities to work at special valuation events. A driving licence and car are useful.

Salaries range from around £8,500 a year to £47,000 a year or more.

An art valuer should:

  • have an expert knowledge of his or her field and keep up to date with price and sales trends
  • have an eye for detail to be able to spot clues to an object's origin and history
  • have research skill
  • have excellent written and spoken communication skills.

Most art valuers are employed by auction houses, but there may also be opportunities with large museums, galleries, antique dealers, insurance companies and private consultancies, banking, investment and art wealth management firms. There are potential employers throughout the UK, usually in larger towns and cities.

There are no set minimum entry qualifications for this work, although in practice most art valuers have a degree in art history and many will have a postgraduate qualification. Entry to a degree course usually requires at least two A levels and five GCSEs (A*-C). Other qualifications may be accepted, either on their own or in combination with A levels. They include relevant AS levels, applied A levels, BTEC Nationals and BTEC Higher Nationals and the International Baccalaureate.

It is possible to start by joining an auction house or antique dealer's business as an assistant, porter, clerk or cataloguer and learning about objects and their value through experience. This can be supplemented by part-time study. Another way to enter the profession is by joining a graduate training scheme with one of the major auction houses and studying for a relevant degree, followed by postgraduate study.

Some major auction houses offer six-month internships that provide an insight into the art world, although there is a high demand for places.

Some art valuers take on related work, such as auctioneering.

It is possible to become self-employed and offer consultancy services to a range of clients.

What is the work like?

Art valuers provide advice on how much a work of art or collections of artwork are worth when people want to buy, sell or insure them. Artworks include paintings, sculpture, furniture, silver, jewellery, clocks and other collectables. Many art valuers specialise in a particular subject or period, eg 18th-century British painting.

An art valuer examines each object carefully to gather information about:

  • when and where it was made
  • who made it
  • its quality
  • its condition
  • its authenticity
  • whether it has been restored or altered in any way.

The valuer also examines any documents relating to the object, such as purchase receipts or letters describing how the document came into the possession of the owner. This is known as the provenance of the object. Art valuers may also use reference books, libraries and the internet to help them in their research and they may consult specialist art historians for an opinion. It is important to pursue due diligence when assessing provenance issues, such as looted art and illegal excavation.

There are many factors that influence the value of a work of art, such as:

  • current tastes
  • previous ownership
  • artist's fame
  • quality, condition and aesthetics
  • prices of similar objects sold at recent auctions - the valuer must keep up to date with what is happening in the market
  • fashion - an artist may suddenly become popular and the price of his or her works will rise steeply.

The valuer produces a written valuation report for the client. If the item is to be sold, the valuer may also write a description of the object for inclusion in a sale catalogue.

Some valuers also conduct auctions. Others use their skills in insurance companies, investigating claims and financial losses when works of art are damaged or stolen.

Art values may differ depending on whether the work is to be sold at auction, to be insured or left in wills.

Hours and environment

Art valuers usually work standard full-time hours, from Monday to Friday. Evening and weekend work may be required to visit clients or attend special events.

Most art valuers are based in offices, but they often visit clients at home or at their business premises. They may also visit libraries, galleries and museums. There are sometimes opportunities to work at special valuation events. A driving licence and car are useful.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary depending on the employer and where people live.

  • A new entrant may earn £18,500 a year.
  • With experience this could rise to around £22,000 to £25,000.
  • Top salaries are likely to be around £47,000 a year, or more.

Income can vary enormously depending on the level of expertise, the area of work and the size of the employer.

Skills and personal qualities

An art valuer should:

  • have an expert knowledge of his or her field and keep up to date with price and sales trends
  • have an eye for detail to be able to spot clues to an object's origin and history, eg the way paint has been applied or a surface has cracked, and whether any conservation work has taken place
  • have research skills
  • have excellent written and spoken communication skills
  • be able to gain the confidence of people from a wide range of backgrounds
  • be willing to travel to see the works of art.

Interests

It is important to:

  • have an interest in history
  • enjoy working with people.

Getting in

Most art valuers are employed by auction houses, but there may also be opportunities with large museums, galleries, antique dealers, insurance companies and private consultancies, banking, investment and art wealth management firms. There are potential employers throughout the UK, usually in larger towns and cities.

Relatively few people are employed in this field. There is likely to be intense competition for vacancies.

Jobs are sometimes advertised in the Antiques Trade Gazette and on some auction houses' websites. The most effective way of finding work, though, is likely to be by making direct approaches to potential employers.

Entry routes

There are no set minimum entry qualifications for this work, although in practice most art valuers have a degree in art history and many will have a postgraduate qualification. Candidates for degree courses usually require at least two A levels and five GCSEs (A*-C). Other qualifications may be accepted, either on their own or in combination with A levels. They include relevant AS levels, applied A levels, BTEC Nationals and BTEC Higher Nationals and the International Baccalaureate.

There are various routes into art valuation work:

  • joining an auction house or antique dealer's business as an assistant, porter, clerk or cataloguer and learning about objects and their value through experience. This can be supplemented by part-time study.
  • joining a graduate training scheme with one of the major auction houses, eg Christie's, which offers a specialist training programme. Entry requires a degree in an art-related subject or successful completion of a one-year diploma from Christie's Education or similar organisation, plus at least two years' commercial or business experience. Sotheby's draws most of its graduate entrants from people who have successfully completed a Sotheby's internship.
  • studying for a relevant degree, followed by further postgraduate study. Relevant degree subjects include history of art, fine art restoration and conservation, and arts market. Sotheby's Institute of Art is the only place that offers an MA in art business.

Competition for work is fierce, and having some relevant experience is an advantage. Some major auction houses, such as Christie's, offer six-month internships that give individuals an insight into the art world, although there is a high demand for places.

Christie's also offers internships for six months in saleroom assistant work. Entry is with a degree and/or 12 months' work experience in an art-related field. The internships are also open to school leavers and pre-university students who have studied history of art at A level.

Sotheby's Auction house offers three-month internships. It takes 300 interns a year, but competition is fierce. Bonhams offers four-week work experience placements within various areas of its salerooms and offices. Applicants must be able to show a proven interest in the auction business.

Regional auction houses provide potential sources of employment. Some valuers gain experience in smaller, regional auction houses before entering national companies at a higher level. The Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers, the professional body for specialist firms throughout the UK, has a website that includes a list of members with the contact details of local auction houses.

Training

On starting work, art valuers learn through experience. They may attend external courses to gain in-depth knowledge of specialist fields. Sotheby's Institute of Art in London, New York and Singapore and Christie's Education run a variety of courses up to postgraduate level that cover the academic and practical sides of the art world.

Entrants to Christie's specialist training programme undertake a two-year programme. It consists of training modules and practical placements at two locations from London, Paris, Hong Kong and New York.

To qualify through the Arts and Antiques Professional Group of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), it is necessary to have a RICS-accredited degree or postgraduate qualification. Currently, the only accredited courses are the BA (Hons) in arts market and the MA in arts market appraisal (professional practice) offered by Kingston University.

After completing the BA or MA qualification, art valuers need to gain further practical experience to become fully qualified. RICS members are required to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) throughout their careers.

CPD opportunities are also available through the National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers, in the form of lectures, seminars and presentations.

Getting on

Opportunities for promotion can be limited and it may be necessary to move to a larger employer for increased pay and responsibility. Some art valuers take on related work, such as auctioneering.

It is possible to become self-employed and offer consultancy services to a range of clients.

There may be opportunities to travel and work abroad.

Further information

Association of Art Historians (AAH), Cowcross Court, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ. 020 7490 3211. Website: www.aah.org.uk

Bonhams, 101 New Bond Street, London W1S 1SR. 020 7447 7447. Website: www.bonhams.com

Christie's, 8 King Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6QT. 020 7839 9060. Website: www.christies.com

Christie's Education, 153 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 5BD. 020 7665 4350. Website: www.christieseducation.com

National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers (NAVA), Arbon House, 6 Tournament Court, Edgehill Drive, Warwick CV34 6LG. 01926 417 774. Website: www.nava.org.uk

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Parliament Square, London SW1P 3AD. 0870 333 1600. Website: www.rics.org

The Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers. 020 7096 8415. Website: www.sofaa.org

Sotheby's, 34/35 New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA. 020 7293 5000. Website: www.sothebys.com

Sotheby's Institute of Art, 30 Bedford Square, London WCIB 3EE. 020 7462 3232. Website: www.sothebysinstitute.com

 

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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