The trick to selling to museums whether it be a large institution like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or your local historical society is scholarly research, provenance and a lot of patience. Nothing moves fast with museums. They do not have to necessarily operate on at a yearly profit, so they move at their own maddening slow pace.
First you must hire a professional appraiser to research and value your art and antiques. Then you must put together the history of the ownership of the item and document you legally own it (provenance). You must then find a museum that both is looking for such items and have the funds the purchase them (most museums have little or no such funds).
You must approach the curator of the department where your object falls (old master paintings, Asian porcelains, Pre-Columbian art, American furniture, etc.). If they express interest, send photos, a copy of the appraisal and the provenance. They will phone you and ask you to bring the object into the museum if it fits into the scope of their collection and budget.
They then research it themselves, and make a presentation before their acquisition board for its accession. This often takes 6-9 months. The board may recommend its purchase; decline it altogether; or tell the curator to find an “angel” or private donor to give money to the museum for its purchase (often easier said than done). Museums usually pay more for items than if they purchased them at auction. They know this lengthy process has to be worth it to the seller to endure.
A good appraiser, like the Chicago Appraisers Association, makes this easy for you. They can discuss the authenticity and importance of an item with the curator to “wet their appetite”. A trick that old-time appraisers did was not including the entire importance of an item in their report, but just allude to a certain direction of research that would show it. The novice curator would then do their own research, discover the omission, and tell the acquisition board the item must be under-priced as the owner has no idea how really important it is. The board quickly jumps on this perceived art value bargain.
A good appraiser should be able to make recommendations to curators where they might find an “angel” to purchase the item for them. They also can advise you of your tax obligations and legal ways to minimize them through reconstruction of original cost and extended pay outs. A good appraiser is not just a “number provider”, but a historian, salesman, and most of all a “solution provider”.
Let the Chicago Appraisers Association be your “guide” to the museum world. There is nothing more gratifying to know your item is going to be properly safe-guarded and admired forever, and you well compensated because of it.
Witness Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh starts as young art salesman in the first photograph. He later takes up painting and does numerous self-portraits in the seven years he painted.
We collected photos from our extensive files of Van Gogh paintings. We placed these in chronological order. You can watch him become angrier, distrustful and finally go completely insane. He was confined to a mental institution and committed suicide right after the last portrait. The power and honesty of these paintings are incredible.