Art Valuer

The Job and What's Involved

Art valuers advise people and organisations who want to buy, sell or insure artworks, about how much each piece or collection is worth. Artworks include paintings, sculpture, furniture, silver, jewellery, clocks and other collectables. Many art valuers specialise in a particular subject or period, for example nineteenth century British painting.

An art valuer examines each object carefully to gather information about:

  • When and where it was made.
  • Who made it.
  • Its quality.
  • Its condition.
  • Whether it has been restored or altered in any way.

The valuer also examines any documents relating to the object, such as purchase receipts or letters describing how the document came into the possession of the owner. This is known as the provenance of the object.

All this information helps the valuer to decide how much the object is worth. Art valuers may use reference books, libraries and the internet to help them in their research. They may also consult specialist art historians for an opinion.

The value is usually based on the prices of similar objects sold at recent auctions, so the valuer must keep up to date with what is happening in the market. Prices are also affected by fashion - an artist may suddenly become popular and the price of their works will rise steeply.

The valuer produces a written valuation report for the client. If the item is to be sold, the valuer may also write a description of the object for inclusion in the sale catalogue.

Some valuers also conduct auctions. Others use their skills in insurance companies, working as loss adjustors, investigating claims and financial losses when works of art are damaged or stolen.

Art valuers usually work 37 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. Evening and weekend work may be required to visit clients or attend special events.

Most art valuers are based in offices which are comfortable and well lit. They often visit clients at home or at their business premises. They may also visit libraries, galleries and museums. There are sometimes opportunities to work at special valuation events in various locations. A driving licence and car are useful.

Salaries start at around £18,500 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most art valuers are employed by auction houses, but there may also be opportunities in large museums, galleries, antique dealers, insurance companies and private consultancies. There are potential employers throughout the UK, usually in larger towns and cities.

Relatively few people are employed in this field. There is likely to be intense competition for vacancies.

Although jobs are sometimes advertised in the Antiques Trade Gazette and on auction houses' websites, probably the most effective way of finding work is to make direct approaches to potential employers.

Education and Training

Formal qualifications are not essential, but in practice most art valuers are graduates. The most useful subjects are history of art or fine art restoration and conservation.

Degree candidates usually need at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3). Equivalent qualifications, such as a BTEC national certificate/diploma or an International Baccalaureate, may be acceptable.

As finding work is highly competitive, some relevant experience is an advantage. For example, work experience opportunities are offered by major auction houses such as Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) accredits a postgraduate course in this field - the MA in Arts Market Appraisal (Professional Practice) at Kingston University. The course lasts one year full time or two years part time. Students need a good first degree. Those who successfully complete the course can go on to gain a professional qualification through the RICS.

It is also possible to join an auction house or antique dealer's business as an assistant, porter, clerk or cataloguer and learn about objects and their value through experience. This can be supplemented by part-time study.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

To qualify through the Arts and Antiques Faculty of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), it is necessary to have a RICS-accredited degree or postgraduate qualification. Currently, the only course available is the MA in Arts Market Appraisal (Professional Practice) from Kingston University.

After completing the MA, art valuers need to gain further practical experience to become fully qualified. This involves at least two years of structured learning while in employment, leading to a RICS professional assessment interview, known as the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). If they successfully complete the APC, art valuers can use the letters MRICS after their name.

RICS members are required to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) throughout their careers.

CPD opportunities are also available through the National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers.

Much training is done through gaining experience. This can be supplemented by external courses, for example to gain in-depth knowledge of specialist fields such as antiquities or miniatures.

The international auction houses, Sotheby's and Christie's, run a variety of courses, up to and including postgraduate level, covering the scholarly and practical sides of the art world.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An art valuer should:

  • Have an expert knowledge of their field and keep up to date with trends.
  • Have an eye for detail to be able to spot clues to an object's origin and history (such as the way paint has been applied or a surface has cracked).
  • Have research skills.
  • Have excellent written and spoken communication skills.
  • Be able to gain the confidence of people from a wide range of backgrounds.

Your Long Term Prospects

Opportunities for promotion can be limited and it may be necessary to move to a larger employer for more pay and responsibility. Some art valuers take on related work such as auctioneering.

It is possible to become self-employed and offer consultancy services to a range of clients.

There may be opportunities to travel and work abroad.

Get Further Information

Association of Art Historians (AAH),
Cowcross Court, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ
Tel: 020 7490 3211

Bonhams, 101 New Bond Street, London W1S 1SR
Tel: 020 7447 7447

Christie's Education, 153 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 5BD
Tel: 020 7665 4350

Kingston University, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture,
Knights Park, Kingston KT1 2QJ
Tel: 020 8547 8062

National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers (NAVA)

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), RICS Contact Centre,
Surveyor Court, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JE
Tel: 0870 333 1600

Sotheby's Institute of Art, 30 Bedford Square, London WCIB 3EE
Tel: 020 7462 3232

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