Auction Record Roundup

It's time once again for the annual corralling and review of the major players in the art auction record compendium business-- Falk's Art Price Index International '97 (API), Hislop's Art Sales Index 1995/96 (ASI), and Annuaire Des Cotes International 96 (ADEC). API is published in America and covers auctions held between July 1995 and July 1996, ASI is from England and covers auctions held between August 1995 and August 1996, and ADEC, from France, covers auctions held between December 1994 and January 1996. The competition between them is fierce, they're all worth owning, and depending on what you buy, sell, or collect, some come in handier than others. Unfortunately, they cost between $170 and $195 each, so for those of you who can't afford all three, here's a summary of their respective strengths and weaknesses.

In overall effectiveness as a price research tool, Art Price Index '97 is the winner by a nose (more than a nose if you buy, sell, or collect mainly American art). Publisher Peter Falk has been steadily improving his product and this edition is his best and most comprehensive effort to date. Its whopping 205,500 entries total 60,000 more than ADEC and 90,000 more than ASI. Even though many of those additional entries are for works of art that were either withdrawn from sales or bought in, the information is still useful for tracking purposes.

The 3,400 page two volume monster lists works by more than 41,000 artists offered at 2,352 auctions held at 407 auction houses in 27 countries. Broken down by medium the entries include 103,366 paintings, 45,916 watercolors, 36,324 prints, 11,103 sculptures, 4,540 photographs, 2,216 posters, 1,306 animation artworks, and 740 miniatures.


A very close second to API is ADEC (it may even be the winner depending on your interests). It claims to be the largest price compendium in the world for works of art that have actually sold, but does not include buy-ins or withdrawals. The 2,335 page reference contains 136,382 entries of oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, drawings, prints, and photos by 40,000 artists and covers results from 668 auction houses in 25 countries.

Those of you who buy, sell, or collect European art other than English might even consider making ADEC your number one choice. It covers more European auction houses than API, particularly smaller French houses, and frequently contains superior numbers of auction sales for European and Scandinavian artists. Don't worry about ADEC being published in France, by the way-- it has just as much English as the competition. Expect it to gain significant market share in the United States once it becomes better known among dealers and collectors.

Hislop's Art Sales Index, though the oldest of the three compendiums and still in the hunt with API and ADEC, has been having some difficulty holding its own as of late. In spite of the fact that it appears to be losing ground in terms of quantity, it remains a top quality compendium in terms of market analysis and inclusion of interesting and unusual features like artists' family trees.

The 3,000 page two volume set contains 112,508 entries for nearly 37,000 artists and covers paintings, watercolors, miniatures, sculptures, prints, drawings, and photographs sold at 2,303 sales held at 398 auction houses. ASI still appears to edge out the competition where British art and artists are concerned and covers the higher end of the art market as well as API and ADEC, but without all the fluff.

All comparisons and criticisms aside, these are the three best auction record compendiums in the world and the more of them you have access to, the better. Researching art prices has almost become a science and without the proper references, you're giving your competitors a substantial advantage. As always, if you can't afford these compendiums yourself, contact your local museums, historical societies, universities, or public libraries and request that they order them.

Art Price Index International '97 edited by Peter Hastings Falk, Sound View Press, Madison, CT, 1996, two volumes, hardbound, 3389 pages, 8 3/4 by 11 1/4 inches, $195 plus $4 shipping. Available from Sound View Press, 170 Boston Post Rd., Madison, CT 06443. Order toll-free by calling 1-800-278-4274 (check, MasterCard, Visa accepted).

Annuaire Des Cotes International 96 by Eric Michel, Editions Emer, Paris, France, 1996, hardbound, 2335 pages, 8 3/4 by 11 1/2 inches, $170 plus $5 shipping. Available from New England Gallery, 367 Governor Wentworth Highway, Wolfeboro, NH 03894, 1-603-569-3501. Visa and MasterCard orders can call toll-free 1-800-527-3501. Those of you who want the complete set of ADEC may order back issues (92 through 95) for $100 each plus shipping. A CD-ROM format is also available.

Art Sales Index 1995/96 edited by Duncan Hislop, Art Sales Index Ltd., Weybridge, Surrey, England, 1996, two volumes, hardbound, 3045 pages, 6 1/2 by 8 3/4 inches, $185. Visa and MasterCard orders can be faxed directly to the publisher at 011-44-1932-842482. Also available from major American art book distributors like Art Book Services, PO Box 360, Hughsonville, NY 12537 (or call toll-free 1-800-247-9955).


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Articles © Alan Bamberger 1999. All rights reserved.