While curatorial and registrar staff are careful not to report the value of works in their care, the topic is of great interest to the general
public especially in high-profile stories relating to damaged or stolen pieces. Sensationalized newspaper headlines quickly and often
inaccurately focus upon the value of works in museum collections as was the case in two recent occurrences.
Example 1: After the destruction of a Han Dynasty-era vase painted by Ai Weiwei, most news headlines proclaimed a valuation of one
million dollars based upon speculative hearsay.
Example 2: Articles about the Pierre-Auguste Renoir recovered
for the Baltimore Museum of Art reported drastically different
values for the painting, with an auction estimate of $75,000 and
an FBI appraisal at $22,000.
News reporters and the general public have not been educated
to understand the difference among market levels, auction
estimates, realized auction sales and a professional appraisal, but
the difference can be very important for museum professionals.
Two areas in which the difference can be critical relate to insuring
museum collections and to the deaccessioning of objects.
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