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Fine Art/Chagall Lithographs - value

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Question
Dear Andrew,

I'm considering purchasing a lithograph by Chagall for my fiancé, however after spending hours on various websites I still find it hard to figure out what the real value of each type of lithographs is. Basically I am not particularly seeking to have a signed lithograph (I probably don't have the money for it anyway :), I'd rather have a very nice one. However I would like to make sure that I'm not overpaying for something that has no value.

I listed the following 4 'categories' based on the internet research that I've done - would you please give me your views as to how much they are worth? (let me know if what I'm saying does not make sense at all, it's just my own understanding of the complex world of Chagall's lithographs :).

1- ORIGINAL Chagall Lithographs: I read that Chagall usually proceeded to print some signed lithographs in limited number (usually below 100, right?) which are numbered 1/X to X/X, as well as some unsigned versions.
The signed versions seem to be typically worth more than 5000 EUR and some go up to 100 000 EUR, even more. You can find them on websites like http://www.masterworksfineart.com.

As for the unsigned versions : the story seems to be different from one website to another. Some websites (which seem pretty serious ones. For exemple they sometimes sell both a signed and unsigned version from the same lithograph) claim that they are selling 1 of the 5000 (or 6000) original unsigned prints, which seems a lot: did Chagall really print as many original lithographs? The websites claim that the prints are referenced in the Mourlot Catalogue, however if the print is not signed and not numbered, how is it possible to tell that it is an original lithograph, even by looking at the lithograph and the Mourlot Catalogue? I'm asking this question since those websites would typically sell them for 500 - 1000 EUR, sometimes more, and I'm wondering if these are really worth the price at all. To give you an example: https://www.original-prints.com/Marc-Chagall-Original-Lithograph-Place-de-la-Concorde-Paris-1952::1824:321.html
What do you think is the real value of these unsigned un-numbered 'original' lithographs?

2 - another category seems to be a limited edition of unsigned lithographs printed by the SPADEM on the year Chagall died; they would be numbered (1/X to X/X) and carry the SPADEM stamp. They sell between 100-500 EUR from what I could see. It seems to me that this is expensive considering that they are not original lithographs.

3 - another option seems to be to purchase of the original limited edition of the specialized magazines to which Chagall contributed, namely 'Derrière Le Miroir' and 'Verve'. Some specific editions contain a few so-called 'original' lithographs (usually the cover and a few others). I'm wondering (a) how much these magazines are worth, and (b) considering that I would like my fiancé to be able to cut out some of the lithographs to put them in nice frames, would it be a good idea? (i.e.would it significantly deteriorate the value of the magazine if you later decide to sell it - in several pieces ? I'm assuming it would)

4 - last, I saw one could buy original editions of the "Catalogues raisonnés" (e.g. the Mourlot's ones, 'Chagall Lithographe I-II-III-IV), which are said to contain 'original' lithographs as well (usually 2 - 12 original ones, including the cover). For this last category I have the same questions as category (3).

Thank you very much in advance for your response. Sorry for my email for being so long and complex and probably full of grammar/spelling mistakes (English is not my native language).

Regards,

Marion

Answer
Dear Marion,

Those are all very valid and great questions. I will go down in order, but it is important to let you know that when purchasing art everything is negotiable, so the price you see on a gallery website is not what you need to pay for it. That's what is great about auction sites such as Christie's and Sotheby's where you can search past auction results and see the market value of the work and then negotiate with the art gallery for a price. Same with Amazon and eBay where you can place a price and see if the owner accepts.

1. Original Chagall lithographs go for anywhere between 3,000-100,000 EUR depending on the image, edition size, and signature. It should only be considered an original Chagall lithograph if the work is hand-signed and those editions can go up to 500 but that is the highest edition I've seen. There are certain series such as the "Bible Series" and other smaller lithographs that do go for the lower end of the prince range given their edition size and the fact that they have a monogrammed signature by Chagall, which are available on www.masterworksfineart.com.

In regards to the unsigned lithographs or re-strikes, those do range in printing sizes and the highest I believe is 6,000 as they were mass produced by either museums, foundations, publications, etc. and I do not consider them worth much, up to $200 at the most because they have no investment value and are not hand-signed and given their large edition sizes there is not a demand to purchase them. In regards to the large sizes being "signed" they are often facisimile or plate signed which means the signature was done on the printing stone and embedded into the paper with the ink and acids so it not hand-signed but rather imprinted into the paper before it comes out making the "signature" worthless.   

2. The SPADEM editions are the same as the unsigned and facsimile lithographs. They do not sell in the art market to collectors as they are not hand-signed and are high editions. They are worth up to $200 depending again on the image and what one is willing to pay.

3. Issues of 'Derrière Le Miroir' and 'Verve' do obtain original unsigned lithographs from a number of artists such as Chagall, Picasso, Braque and Miro. (a) They are worth around $100-$300 depending on if you buy them individually or buy them in a group. Some places sell them in groups which is better worth your money, and some copies are also more coveted then others so prices might fluctuate outside the range depending on the issue. (b) Yes cutting the lithographs out of the magazine would devalue it as that is where the collectible value comes from. You could purchase one and frame the whole magazine open to two pages, switching the pages over every now and then. That way you are not breaking up the magazine and are also displaying the magazine in its full context.

4. (a) Each book in the Mourlot/Sorlier six series of catalogue raisonnés sells for around $500 which is the series that features the unsigned color lithographs: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=11269820828&searchurl=sortby%3D. (b) Yes removing the lithographs will decrease the value of the book as it the definitive reference for Chagall's works on paper, but if you do not plan on reselling the book as it is mainly a reference material then it makes no difference what you do with it.

What you would like to purchase for your fiancee all depends on your budget and what speaks to something she would like. Yes art should be an investment so you have the luxury of making some money further down the road, but art is most importantly about passion and what you want to look at everyday on your wall. When purchasing Chagall, you really can't go wrong as all of his works are wonderful, no matter the value. Hopefully that answered all of your questions and best of luck. Andrew Evans.  

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Andrew Evans

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Experienced in selling, appraising and judging authenticity of signed original prints and unique works of fine art. Concentration on Picasso lithographs; Rembrandt etchings; Edgar Degas drawings; Calder lithographs; Miro; Durer woodcuts; Marc Chagall lithographs; Renoir etchings; Toulouse Lautrec lithographs; Vasarely; Warhol silk screens; Henry Moore sculptures.

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Judging authenticity and avoiding fraud. Appraisal. Fine art investments.

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Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Sonoma State University

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