People are reluctant to put a price on things they love, but sometimes it’s necessary. Enter Melissa Soltesz, owner of Soltesz Fine Art Consulting. The Park City-based appraiser makes her living valuing art. Whether it’s a collection of contemporary paintings, an heirloom Renoir, or a series of limited-edition photographs, Soltesz specializes in putting a dollar sign on it.
I’ve been in the gallery industry for 16 years. Several years ago, I wanted to start my own business, but didn’t want to open another gallery in Park City. Instead, I went back to school for appraisal studies at the University of California, Irvine. I’ve been in business as an appraiser for about five years now.
I’m the only appraiser I know of in the area who is a member of the American Society of Appraisers. Local galleries refer their clients to me. But the majority of my clients find me on the Internet.
Insuring the Future
People call me most frequently to appraise their collections for insurance purposes. Sales come up too, but not as often. The same goes for charitable contributions.
Always buy what you love. Visit galleries and look around. After a while, you’ll fine-tune your eye to what appeals to you most. Choose something that will have staying power for you personally. If you’re a new collector in Park City, share that interest with local gallery owners. They’ll be happy to guide you.
The most expensive piece I’ve ever appraised was an original oil painting by Marc Chagall, for $5 million.
Putting a Price On It
It’s the same process as appraising real estate. I look for comparable sales in the marketplace. Obviously each piece of art is unique, though. I try to find pieces by the same artist, in the same medium, size, time period, and subject matter. There’s a lot of research involved. When it comes to insurance appraisals, I’m looking for the replacement cost. In that case, I go into the retail environment to see how comparable paintings are priced.
I’ve appraised works in Park City by Ansel Adams, Richard Diebenkorn, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.
If You Could Have Any Piece of Art...
Oh, I could give you a laundry list a mile long. I especially love contemporary art and black and white photography.