Ask an Instructor: Tips on Finding Parallel Artists

Ask an Instructor: Tips on Finding Parallel Artists

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 in Ask an Instructor

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to ISA's instructors. One of ISA's instructors will share answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to

Question: Help! I’m appraising artwork for estate tax purposes. The artist is not returning my calls. He is his own market. He has no past or current gallery representation, and he has no auction sale results. I know that I’m supposed to look for a parallel artist to determine fair market value when there are no comparables. Do you have any tips on finding parallel artists?

Answer: I do have some tips to share. First, I want to remind you to make sure you document your unsuccessful attempts at contacting the artist in your report. That’s an important step so that your reader understands the due diligence you completed prior to seeking a parallel artist. Now, how to find a parallel artist that is also similarly obscure? Since most of these artists do not have national standing, you can go to auction record databases where you can search by keywords instead of artist names. These databases also include records from small local and regional auctioneers that often handle the lesser-known artists. You can search these databases for artists working in the same regional area, same relative age, similar training, similar subject matter, size, medium, condition, quality, etc. Another option is to look at small local galleries that once represented the artist and search for auction sales of other artists the same gallery had at one time represented. Try to find group exhibitions that included your artist and search for auction records of other artists that exhibited with your artist. Once you find a parallel artist that has some sales data, remember to apply a discount. Any artist with even a handful of sales would be more marketable, thus setting a ceiling for the artist you are appraising. I hope these tips are helpful to you. Don’t forget to utilize the ISA Forum on Facebook to see if any of your peers have suggestions for parallel artists too!

Helpful Hint:
Not sure what constitutes significant appraisal assistance? Check out USPAPs Advisory Opinion 31 for more information on Assignments Involving More than One Appraiser. There is helpful information on recordkeeping requirements, certifications/signatures, and what constitutes “significant appraisal assistance." Seven different illustrations are provided to clarify who signs what, where, and when.

By, Meredith Meuwly, ISA CAPP, Director of Education

From the ISA Now Blog

See all blog posts