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What to do with unusual artworks?
Old 07-04-2017, 05:16 PM   #1
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What to do with unusual artworks?

I have three nice (IMHO) pieces of pre-Columbian ceramic art. Two are from the American southwest, the third is from the Caribbean Taino culture. I paid very little for all of them.

Here's my question. When I'm gone, I would really hate to see such good pieces lost to future generations, but I don't know what to do with them.

Obviously, I enjoy looking at them every day, but I'm old enough that I think I should be able to get them a new home.

I've tried to interest a number of auction houses, but none expressed the slightest interest.

I've offered them to museums, but they're afraid to take anything that doesn't have at least ten pages of notarized documentation about their provenance.

I've asked experts in the field what to do, and the usual response is "Oh, that stuff is common enough that there's no special interest."

So I figured I'd ask the information source of last resort, the good old E-R forum.

I can post pictures if you're curious, but just in general are there any suggestions?
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Old 07-04-2017, 05:20 PM   #2
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I have three nice (IMHO) pieces of pre-Columbian ceramic art. Two are from the American southwest, the third is from the Caribbean Taino culture. I paid very little for all of them.

Here's my question. When I'm gone, I would really hate to see such good pieces lost to future generations, but I don't know what to do with them.

Obviously, I enjoy looking at them every day, but I'm old enough that I think I should be able to get them a new home.

I've tried to interest a number of auction houses, but none expressed the slightest interest.

I've offered them to museums, but they're afraid to take anything that doesn't have at least ten pages of notarized documentation about their provenance.

I've asked experts in the field what to do, and the usual response is "Oh, that stuff is common enough that there's no special interest."

So I figured I'd ask the information source of last resort, the good old E-R forum.

I can post pictures if you're curious, but just in general are there any suggestions?
How about popping a message to the guys at the TV show American Pickers (Antique Archeology)?
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Old 07-04-2017, 05:20 PM   #3
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My first cut is with the kids and if there is no interest, Craigslist/Ebay. If no takers, then it's Waste Management.
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Old 07-04-2017, 05:28 PM   #4
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You can post in your album. That's where my self made art resides.
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Old 07-04-2017, 05:28 PM   #5
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They might be of interest to an archeology department of a University.
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Old 07-04-2017, 06:06 PM   #6
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How about popping a message to the guys at the TV show American Pickers (Antique Archeology)?
I don't think they would be the right place. These are museum quality artworks.

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My first cut is with the kids and if there is no interest, Craigslist/Ebay. If no takers, then it's Waste Management.
Done that, just lowballs.

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They might be of interest to an archeology department of a University.
Tried that, never even got a response.
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Old 07-04-2017, 06:36 PM   #7
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You say that you like them, you enjoy looking at them, and IMO there is no age at which we are too old to have and enjoy art.

I feel strongly that you should keep them, enjoy them, and enjoy looking at them every single day. You will not be around after you are gone, obviously; finding a new home for them is not something you need to participate in or worry about.

Let your kids or other heirs deal with this after you are gone. Communicate to them, either face to face or in a letter, how much these art works and their future locations mean to you.
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Old 07-04-2017, 06:41 PM   #8
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OK I had to google what they were. It says 13000BC-1500 ad. So this pieces are 500 years old at least. I think thats awesome. Email the tv show pawn stars. They give out quotes for things.
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Old 07-04-2017, 07:50 PM   #9
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Not equivalent to the OP, but we have several pieces that cost between $1000 and $2500 over the past 20 years that we've tired of, we have more art than wall space, and we expect to downsize. We'd be happy to get as low as 25 cents to the dollar. When I've tried to sell any of it, I also found almost zero interest with dealers and scarce bidding on eBay. Online consignment seems to just sit gathering electron dust. I did sell one piece for 10 cents on the dollar at a garage sale (hate them), the buyer wanted it another half off, I refused and she bought it anyway. So we have pieces we hang on to propped up 2-4 deep behind bedroom doors...
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Old 07-04-2017, 08:00 PM   #10
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Not equivalent to the OP, but we have several pieces that cost between $1000 and $2500 over the past 20 years that we've tired of, we have more art than wall space, and we expect to downsize. We'd be happy to get as low as 25 cents to the dollar. When I've tried to sell any of it, I also found almost zero interest with dealers and scarce bidding on eBay. Online consignment seems to just sit gathering electron dust. I did sell one piece for 10 cents on the dollar at a garage sale (hate them), the buyer wanted it another half off, I refused and she bought it anyway. So we have pieces we hang on to propped up 2-4 deep behind bedroom doors...
Wow , if you could have gotten a written appraisal, you might have been better off donating it to a charity for a tax write off.
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Old 07-04-2017, 08:15 PM   #11
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I have three nice (IMHO) pieces of pre-Columbian ceramic art. Two are from the American southwest, the third is from the Caribbean Taino culture. I paid very little for all of them.
...
I've offered them to museums, but they're afraid to take anything that doesn't have at least ten pages of notarized documentation about their provenance.
...
I can post pictures if you're curious, but just in general are there any suggestions?
I know you already said you'd offered them to museums, but you didn't say which museums. For the southwest pieces, the Heard museum in Phoenix might be worth asking if they want them. Or maybe the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona might be interested. Apologies if you've already tried those institutions.

For the Caribbean/Taino piece, there are lots of little museums in the islands themselves that might actually want something like that and be less concerned with provenance... It sounds like a good excuse to take a cruise or a trip and see if there's any interest. Particularly if you know which island it hails from.
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Old 07-04-2017, 08:26 PM   #12
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These experiences of trying to sell pieces of unique and specific interest remind me the predominate value in art is in one's personal enjoyment.

Acquired a number of lower cost, but high quality prints from a photographer with a resume (Disney wildlife movies, NatGeo). Photographer spent tens of thousands of $$ and many hours to be in the right position. Late wife and I loved them, the kids could care less and friends weren't interested when it was time to clean up the old life.

Suggest you love them while you can and leave them to your heirs to dispose.
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Old 07-04-2017, 11:48 PM   #13
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Ok, just to keep the thread really interesting, please post photo's of them, as I'm super vague on what they look like.
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Old 07-04-2017, 11:55 PM   #14
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Not equivalent to the OP, but we have several pieces that cost between $1000 and $2500 over the past 20 years that we've tired of, we have more art than wall space, and we expect to downsize. We'd be happy to get as low as 25 cents to the dollar. When I've tried to sell any of it, I also found almost zero interest with dealers and scarce bidding on eBay. Online consignment seems to just sit gathering electron dust. I did sell one piece for 10 cents on the dollar at a garage sale (hate them), the buyer wanted it another half off, I refused and she bought it anyway. So we have pieces we hang on to propped up 2-4 deep behind bedroom doors...


We were in a similar situation and finally donated them all to The Discovery Shop. In our area, this shop has a clientele that actually appreciates nice things and all proceeds go to fight cancer. Plus we did take a tax deduction.
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Old 07-05-2017, 06:54 AM   #15
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Let your kids or other heirs deal with this after you are gone.
I think this is the best answer for me. I really don't want to give them up; I was just thinking about finding a place that would want them so I could make advance arrangements. But continuing to beat my head against the wall with likely places is more trouble than it's worth.

Then again, it's always possible I'm just delusional and I'm the only one who really appreciates these things. Antiques are funny that way.

Thanks for all the suggestions!
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Old 07-05-2017, 07:46 AM   #16
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Whatever you do, don't lay the guilt trip on your kids that my Mother did on me. She's been gone 15 years (I still miss her very much) and I can't bring myself to throw away any of her junky stuff, let alone the few nice bits she left me. All my life, she made such a hullaballoo about how much these things "meant" and how she had to scrape to buy them, how much she loved her elderly friends who gave her scraps from the Victorian era, etc.

I just made myself throw out a tattered old bound volume of "Peterson's Magazine" from the 1870's. The print is so small I can barely read it with cheaters, and the stories aren't very good. But here I was, giving house room to it for 15 years, and still felt bad about throwing it away.
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Old 07-05-2017, 08:05 AM   #17
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Tried that, never even got a response.
That really is too bad. Perhaps life is just too easy for them.

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You say that you like them, you enjoy looking at them, and IMO there is no age at which we are too old to have and enjoy art.

I feel strongly that you should keep them, enjoy them, and enjoy looking at them every single day. You will not be around after you are gone, obviously; finding a new home for them is not something you need to participate in or worry about.

Let your kids or other heirs deal with this after you are gone. Communicate to them, either face to face or in a letter, how much these art works and their future locations mean to you.
+1 We have things in the house that are from previous generations, we enjoy displaying them and also talking about them. We are also beginning to do this with our children, now that they all have families of their own.
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Old 07-05-2017, 08:31 AM   #18
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Whatever you do, don't lay the guilt trip on your kids that my Mother did on me.
Good advice. No problem in my case (no kids). DW kept a few of my mother's Hummels, but everything else was gone within a year of her demise.
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Old 07-05-2017, 09:03 AM   #19
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+1 We have things in the house that are from previous generations, we enjoy displaying them and also talking about them. We are also beginning to do this with our children, now that they all have families of their own.
Sorry, not helpful advice for childless couples.

DM volunteered for a local non-profit that served people in need in the community. They ran a second hand goods shop that did a brisk business and made a fair profit. It was like an upscale version of a Goodwill Thrift shop, and their inventory was donated estates. They would take those ceramics in a heartbeat, and if you left a short description of the piece, they'd put it there for all to see. This is an option for the "after I'm gone" period.
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Old 07-05-2017, 10:06 AM   #20
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Sounds like you've done a decent amount of work to try to find a good place for them. At this point I think I'd just enjoy them for the rest of my life and not worry about what happens to them. Why try to sell them now while you can still appreciate them?


Since you have no kids, what is your plan for all of your "stuff" when you go? I'd guess your executor will hold an estate sale, so these can be a part of it and maybe someone will buy and appreciate them. Even if they get it for a lowball price, I think it'd be kind of nice to imagine that someone who might not easily afford some nice artwork could get something like this and appreciate it. After all, you say you paid very little for them, whatever that means.
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