Part 2 (Read Part 1 here)
After getting over my shock – and explaining to my husband why I was literally having a cow on the couch – I started sleuthing. As a journalist, that’s what I do. First I e-mailed the art dealer.
“Hi John. Ever have one of those nightmares, when a really valuable piece of artwork slips through your hands because you didn’t realize what it was? Well, I fear that happened with one of the pieces in my father’s collection. Tonight I read a blurb in Seattle Magazine about Seattle ArtResource holding its “Lineage” show featuring artists who attended or taught at UW. I thought it sounded interesting so I looked up the gallery online. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw this painting of “Cow.” It had hung above my parents’ bed (upside down, no less) for as long as I can remember. My father said it was “by some art student.” I guess that “art student” was the now very famous Chuck Close. And I’m kicking myself because I actually saw a tag on the back that said “Charles Close” but I never in my wildest dreams thought it was by THE Chuck Close because it didn’t look like any piece of his that I had ever seen before! This painting didn’t sell at our estate sale. None of the art enthusiasts who came through the house noticed it – not you, not (the estate sale guy), not the (auction house), none of my father’s art friends. In fact, when it didn’t sell, we even let the house stager use it when he staged the house. Check it out in seconds 27/28 in this video:
I’d like to believe it’s not a Chuck Close. But when I see it next to the other ones at that gallery I see a very strong resemblance.
I’m not sure what response I was looking for from John. Sympathy? An apology? A vow to “get to the bottom of this?” I wasn’t blaming John. He didn’t give the darn thing away. I did. Here’s what he said:
“I do not remember seeing “the cow”.
I have had two works by Chuck Close from his student work at the university of Washington. Neither one of them sold. I even called (name omitted) at the Pace gallery in NYC and he expressed no interest in the student work of Chuck close. He has been Chuck’s long time close friend and art dealer.
He told me Chuck would like to see that work just destroyed. I will look through some auction records tomorrow but I do not think the paintings are hyper valuable. I have no idea really until I do research. Do you remember who you sold this painting to?”
I also e-mailed the gallery to see if Cow had sold.
Meanwhile, John sent another e-mail:
“I just looked through the auction records for the past 10 years on Chuck Close.
I saw two student works listed for sale one of them was a work that I had and it was quite small listed at 60 to 80,000 (that’s thousand dollars) and it did not sell and there was another fairly recently that was quite large that was listed at 60 to 100,000 (thousand dollars) and did not sell so just as I suspect there is little or no interest in Chuck close student work. The work that I had 10 years ago was for sale for $3000 and we could not find a buyer. “
Like they say on Pawn Stars – just because someone lists a price on eBay doesn’t mean it will sell for that amount. The real value is how much something sells for. So, according to John’s guess, I gave away a painting that won’t sell for $3,000, not a $100,000 painting.
He sent me screen shots from online auction catalogues showing the Chuck Close works he was referring to – listed in 2010 and 2014 at $40,000 to $100,000. He concluded, “It’s my opinion that there is no developed market for Mr. Close’s undergrad student work from his time at U of W.”
And then this e-mail. Clearly he was pondering this issue:
“Who did you sell this painting to Cynthia?.
Was it signed on the front?. I’m sure it’s a Close but it’s still student work. I’m sad because it’s for sale for a lot more money than your family received. I would never have wanted to sell that painting even if I’d known it was created by Close.
I went through that scenario and spent too much time & resources only to be told…. `Not interested, it’s student work.’ and it sat at my gallery for a long time.”
“I really don’t think it will sell for more than a few thousand.
This work is so far outside of where Chuck has been for the last 35 years that doubt it will ever be considered relevant. There’s a story that chuck close tells students and people when he’s lecturing that when he met William deKooning that he shook his hand and said `finally I’ve met somebody who has painted more deKoonings than I have.’ Enough said.”
Meanwhile, I continued to sleuth. I started Googling and my heart sank further when I saw a 2010 episode of Antiques Roadshow that valued a 1960 Chuck Close student piece at $100,000 to $150,000!
To Be Continued…..