Davenport's Art Price Reference 2012 Edition
Book and CD-ROM

In an era where hardbound books make less and less sense from a practical standpoint, here's one that's as useful and necessary as ever-- Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2012 Edition. Or for you digital devotees, it's also available as a CD-ROM, both versions published by LTB Gordonsart Inc. Whichever you prefer, they're fast, easy to use, comprehensive, and loaded with data-- now providing basic biographical and price information for over 335,000 artists, about 15,000 more names (and over 400 more pages) than the previous edition. The book/CD-ROM cross-references over 30 major art reference boos as well as countless thousands of international auction sales. A typical entry contains a variety of basic data-- as available-- including the artist's full name, birth and death dates (if known), countries of residence, specialties (painter, etcher, etc.), types of subject matters and mediums, auction selling price results, price ranges, names of auction houses where the artist's art has sold (sometimes with specific sales dates), and names of art reference books, dictionaries, encyclopedias and indexes where more comprehensive biographical information can be found.

One of the main advantages of Davenport's book and CD-ROM over competing books and online databases is speed-- being able to find out fast whether an artist is either documented in standard references, has had works come up and sell at auctions, or both. Without this umbrella resource, you would have to check various reference books, databases, and price compendiums individually hoping to piece together available information. Once you locate an artist's name, Davenport's tells you exactly where to go next. The best part is that it lists many obscure and minor artists, especially American, who are listed hardly anywhere else-- and whose art may never have even appeared at auction, but who are nonetheless known and documented.

A clear advantage of the CD-ROM over the book is a search option that matches artist names with partial signatures. For example, if you identify the letters "Po-l-ck" in the artist's name, then you search the CD-ROM by typing in "po*l*ck" (typing an asterisk in place of each missing letter), all artist names with letters matching that configuration come up. In the old days, before the CD-ROM, I had to do this page-by-page, over and over again trying various letter placements and permutations in attempts to match missing letters in partial signatures-- often looking at hundreds of names before finally making a match-- or finding no match and giving up. That frustrating tedium is now a thing of the past.

Sadly, the CD-ROM version of Davenport's is only available in PC formats, so if you're on a Mac, you'll need PC-emulating software. Hey Gordonsart-- in case you haven't noticed, Apple computers have made somewhat of a comeback in recent years. So how about it? Time to cut us a little slack? I think so.

Several cautions abou using Davenport's: Always keep in mind it's only a beginning. Whatever price information you might find should be considered as a sampling only-- a very approximate indicator of what an artist's art may be worth. More comprehensive research is always necessary-- even required-- in order to obtain a more complete overview of an artist's market. Additionally, not all Davenport's prices are current-- some may be older, outdated, or at times listed as ranges rather than as specific documented dollar amounts. The bracketed date at the end of most artist entries, like [2011] for example, is especially important and indicates the most recent year in which a listing has been updated. While an artist's basic biographical data changes little or not at all from year to year, his or her price information may vary substantially over time, so pay close attention to that bracketed date-- the further back it is, the less reliable the price information may be. Entries that lack bracketed dates completely also tend to be older and/or outdated, and over-reliance on those prices may be risky.

Now when you find price ranges in artist listings (like 300-700, for example), that means no auction sales data is available. The editors did their best to estimate reasonably accurate ranges based on biographical data or career information, but at times, they can be even more misleading than outdated auction results. Price ranges were most often approximated by early editors of Davenport's when they had little in the way of concrete data to go on, and are, at best, educated guesses as to value. With the passage of time, artist price ranges are in the process of gradually being replaced with actual auction results as they become available-- but in the meantime, if you happen to come across them, don't take them too seriously.

In spite of these few drawbacks, Davenport's is among the top two or three most frequently consulted artist references in my library-- still-- and I've got pretty much every artist dictionary, encyclopedia, index, price guide, who's who, CD-ROM, and online database at my fingertips. When I need information about an artist I'm not familiar with or who I'm having trouble locating data for online, Davenport's is far more often than not the first book I check. Don't build your art library without it.

Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2012 Edition , LTB Gordonsart Inc., Phoenix, 2011, hardbound, 2832 pages, 8 3/4 by 11 1/4 inches, $185.

Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2012 Edition , CD-ROM, LTB Gordonsart Inc., Phoenix, 2011, $210.

Available from LTB Gordonsart Inc., 610 E. Bell Road #2-163, Phoenix, AZ 85022 or call 1-602-253-6948 or visit LTB Gordonsart online.

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