An Artist’s Estate

Image Credits: Simon de Vlieger
1600/1601-1653
Estuary at Dawn
Sold by Gurr Johns to the National Gallery of Washington on behalf of a client. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Art poses unique challenges in an estate context, especially when the decedent is an artist who leaves behind a large body of their own work. Gurr Johns has extensive expertise in valuing artist’s estates for families or foundations left with the management of valuable collections.

Gurr Johns was retained by the estate of an important contemporary artist to provide an IRS compliant estate tax appraisal under a tight filing deadline. Our team of specialists worked closely with the family, attorney and artist’s gallery to confidentially appraise the collection in the most time and cost efficient manner.

The estate contained thousands of works of art, from large finished pieces to archives, process materials, and ephemera. After appraising a representative sampling of the collection across all major categories, we were able to craft a compelling narrative for the IRS and apply a blockage discount. Our expertise in valuing artist’s estates allowed for the systematic valuation of a challenging body of work–allowing the dealer to maintain an orderly and stable market, the attorney to meet their fiduciary duties, and the family to protect and sustain the legacy of the artist.

A Matrimonial Action

In the emotionally charged landscape of divorce, an independent valuation of assets is critical in the process of equitable division of property. Gurr Johns was retained as the neutral appraiser in the divorce of a high net worth couple. Like many of our clients, the collection was located in multiple residences in the United States and Europe, with additional works loaned to museums and in art storage. Utilizing our international team we were able to swiftly appraise thousands of items of fine and decorative art.

Our team was careful to adhere to the conventions of neutrality in a matrimonial dispute, and we were able to appraise this large collection efficiently and meet all court imposed deadlines. Equipped with a comprehensive appraisal of the collection, the parties were able to negotiate the division of assets across a matrix of personal, sentimental and market value.

An Active Collector-Dealer Using Art as an Asset

In the last decade of the art market, a new group of highly active collector-dealers has emerged. Gurr Johns works closely with these sophisticated collectors, exploring the full spectrum of art based transactions in the current market. Annual appraisals allow the client to track fluctuations in the market and account for a high volume of sales and acquisitions.

Gurr Johns’ valuations allow the collector-dealer to engage in a wide range of estate and financial planning – transfer of art assets, the funding of trusts, art leasing, art as collateral; 1031 exchanges and donations.

The Disposition of an Important Art Collection

We acted on behalf of a fiduciary to advise and assist with the disposition of artwork from an important collection that had been assembled over four decades. Working to meet an assigned liquidity target, we selected works of high quality that did not diminish the aesthetic integrity of the collection, while being guided by our understanding of the family’s sentimental connection to certain pieces.

Where the collection was heavily weighted in works by a select number of artists, Gurr Johns advised reducing risk in these areas by careful deaccessioning, to decrease exposure in case of a future market shift.  Once the group of works to be sold was assembled, Gurr Johns arranged meetings with senior auction house executives to gather sales and marketing proposals. We then skillfully negotiated on behalf of the client achieving a compelling financial offer from an auction house, and creating the highest possible return for the client.

A Damaged Collection

Accidents happen, particularly when valuables are moved from one location to another. In these instances, it is important for an insurance company or a collector to obtain an independent valuation for any damaged items. Gurr Johns has extensive experience in working with major insurance carriers and their clients to provide the range of values needed to resolve an insurance claim. Recently, Gurr Johns was retained by a transportation company to provide the pre-damage retail replacement value and percentage loss for the damage of an entire collection that occurred during a cross-country move.

Our team coordinated with the transportation company and the collector to inspect the damaged items, and provide a damage appraisal for the transportation company’s insurance provider. We also assisted the collector with guidance on the conservation of high value items, including a crystal chandelier and contemporary works of art. Our expertise in this field and comprehensive network of art professionals allowed us to deliver a seamless, positive experience for the client.