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By Karen Youso

RISMEDIA, June 12, 2008-(MCT)-Q: What can be done with original art, the kind we buy at a local art fair, when a person grows tired of it and is ready for something else?

Is there a shop that handles watercolors, oils, etc.? I hate to donate these to thrift shops, as they often go unappreciated.

A: First, find out if the artwork has increased in value, advised Stewart Turnquist, with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

“One of the things that can happen over the years is that the artist has gained further recognition and the painting is worth more,” Turnquist said. You can check that using Internet search engines such as Google.

Many artists now have websites, or they might show their work as part of an exhibit. In addition, certain galleries in town represent certain artists. Contact the appropriate gallery and explain that you’d like to sell a piece.

If the piece has really gained in value, a museum may be interested in it. If the museum doesn’t want to buy the work, you could donate it as a tax-deductible contribution.

If you discover that the artist’s work hasn’t become more valuable, you are basically in the same situation as the artist: looking for ways to sell his or her work.

If galleries or auction houses have sold the artist’s work in the past, you might go to them first. Or contact an outside appraiser. Look for them in yellow-page directories or on art gallery websites. Ask if they do appraisals of works such as yours and what they charge.

Unwanted Art Worth Money

There are many stories of people whose unwanted art turned out to be valuable, Turnquist said. Finding out what a piece is worth and then selling it isn’t all that difficult, as Paula Spiteri of St. Louis Park, Minn., discovered.

Her mother bought a painting in 1956 that she no longer wanted. Spiteri did a Google search of the artist and, to her surprise, found that Bonhams, a London auction house, had recently sold one of the artist’s works.

She e-mailed Bonhams a photo of the painting, its dimensions and other details. They valued the painting at 15,000 to 30,000 pounds-about $30,000 to $50,000-from which they’d deduct a 10% commission.

Delighted, but wondering if she could do better, Spiteri searched further and found the artist’s name again, at Sotheby’s. Their estimate was $20,000 to $40,000, but they would take only a 3% commission, so she chose them. Sotheby’s agents came to the house and handled all the packing and shipping, Spiteri said.

The painting sold for $50,000. Spiteri’s mother made $44,000, after paying the commission and handling charges, and Sotheby’s wired the money directly into her account.

“Not bad for a $500 painting,” Spiteri said.

© 2008, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.