For as long as I have been in the art business I have wondered how "we" get away with the things we do.

There is so much that comes to mind I have no idea where to begin.

Andy Warhol
Cy Twombly
Thomas Kinkade
An instalation of "Farts" in the London Museum

Those were just the first things that shot through my mind. I could write volumes about why I think they are hucksters or why people are so sheep like, but I have other bones to pick at the moment.

As a few of you know I have been taking courses from an international organization, so I may be an accredited fine art appraiser.

For years I have been working with appraisers and answering questions for them so they can get paid to do appraisals. I figured that I should be the one getting paid if I was doing the work.

Almost every appraiser I had ever met was a member of one of the three top appraisal organizations. All of them offer classes. All of them preach about being a member and the benefits it will bring.

Needles to say I picked one and signed up for their classes.

From the beginning they like to go on and on about Ethics. How important they are to the business of appraising. How anyone not a member of one of the organizations could not be Ethical.

ethics |ˈeθiks| plural noun 1 [usu. treated as pl. ] moral principles that govern a person's or group's behavior : Judeo-Christian ethics. • the moral correctness of specified conduct : the ethics of euthanasia. 2 [usu. treated as sing. ] the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles. Schools of ethics in Western philosophy can be divided, very roughly, into three sorts. The first, drawing on the work of Aristotle, holds that the virtues (such as justice, charity, and generosity) are dispositions to act in ways that benefit both the person possessing them and that person's society. The second, defended particularly by Kant, makes the concept of duty central to morality: humans are bound, from a knowledge of their duty as rational beings, to obey the categorical imperative to respect other rational beings. Thirdly, utilitarianism asserts that the guiding principle of conduct should be the greatest happiness or benefit of the greatest number.

The more I learn about the business of appraising, the more problems I'm having.

Let me explain.
First. Not one of any of the organizations will tell me about their disciplinary practices. I wanted to know how often they discipline members for Ethical violations. Not one of them will answer that question.

Second. I have come to find out that there is no governing body that watches over appraisers. Meaning, anyone and everyone can be an appraiser of anything. No matter what your education, or background or what ever. Legally, anyone can be an appraiser of anything. No questions asked. Membership to any of the appraisal societies is not required or necessary.

Third. Any object can be appraised for what ever amount you want it appraised for.
An antique can have an appraised value of $200.00 or $10,000.00 for the exact same object, and both would be legal. If you get an appraisal for the IRS, you want it have a low value so you don't have to pay taxes on it. An appraisal for insurance replacement value you want to be high in case you lose or damage the object. It can get much more complicated than that.

We are talking about the same object. Maybe it's just me, but that does not sound very ethical. Screw who ever you are doing the appraisal for as long as you come out ahead. That's how I see that. There are ten chapters that explain how and why these things are done but it all sounds the same to me.

What it comes down to is. An appraiser has to be able to justify the findings in court, should the appraisal be questioned. That is what the classes teach. How to justify your appraisal value, depending on who you are talking with.

Am I missing the point of ethics?


Anonymous said…
I've been trying to comment since Wednesday with no success. Just wanted to say these last few posts have been very interesting. I hope this comment goes through.

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