- Cher Lee, Auctionneers have a poor vocabulary compared to E-Bay dealers. E-Bay is for a non-english speaker an excellent-wonderful-interesting-exceptionalMessage 1 of 6 , Jan 12, 2007View SourceCher Lee,Auctionneers have a poor vocabulary compared to E-Bay dealers.E-Bay is for a non-english speaker an excellent-wonderful-interesting-exceptional place to improve one's knowledge in english adjectives.To promote an object which is supposed to be collectable /collectors quality or museum quality, you can use a maximum of 4 adjectives. Examples :fine - great - excellent - fabulous - outstanding - Important - ... of supreme qualityfor esthets : nice - pretty - elegant - beautiful - lovely - wonderful - lustrous - superb - terrific - sophisticated - magnificent...teasing emotions : sweet - interesting - charming - delightful - expressive - impressive - fascinating - stunning - striking - spectacular - imposing - awesome - dramatic - scary - majestic...more descriptive : elaborate - sculptural - primitive looking - excellent patina - richly patinated - old encrusted...style : classic - original - unusual - highly unusual - exceptional - rare - rare vintage - exceptionaly rare - extremely rare - exceptionaly rare - exceedingly rare,...age : old - X years old - old and worn - very old, -extremely old - vintage - ancient - antique - antique ethnic - authentic - authentic old - extremely old,...exotism : ethnic - tribal - African tribal - vintage tribal - ceremonial - ancestral - initiation-X - inscrutable,..Exercise (or game to be played on rainy sundays) :Sell a Kulango-statue, a Guere-mask, a Fon-fetiche and a Luba staff, using at least 3 of the adjectives.example :"Important authentic, rare and expressive Dogon statue with excellent encrusted patina"Have fun.Vero
Lee Rubinstein <LeeRubinstein@...> wrote:Elly:I -- and others -- have often mused about (and been amused by) the limited descriptive vocabulary used in the catalogue captioning of works offered by auction houses (and other purveyors), and I have contemplated sending a thesaurus to each of the houses to encourage the use of a broader vocabulary in the writing of descriptive text. I remember calculating once the number of times that item description titles for an auction used the terms, "fine," "rare" and "superb" (or "exceptional" ). "Fine" is applied to a seeming majority of objects -- with "rare" and "superb" being applied more sparingly -- as if the words themselves can bestow value upon the objects so described.Some very general thoughts and more questions than answers:The question of rarity can be treated as a sub-set of the consideration of authenticity, purported "importance" and the machinations that are undertaken to elevate "value". ("Important" is another adjective that appears on the list.) Of course, the application of such a descriptive term as "rare" is wholly subjective and inter-twined with the need to isolate particular objects within a broader selection of such objects to create a limited body of authentic works of higher value within the commercial realm. Indeed there are forms that appear less frequently than others, but I think that the idea of "rarity" is often used with the implicit intent to exclude the open consideration of comparative examples in order to establish (perhaps merely through suggestion) a value derived from rarity -- as opposed to (or in addition to) quality; as such, the implication of stating the rarity of an object is meant to suggest that -- while other examples may exist -- they could not possibly be authentic based on the claim that the form is in itself "rare": How could there be numerous authentic examples of a work which was stated to be rare? Is the use of such a description as "rare" meant to suggest that other examples are necessarily inauthentic or is it rather a strategy to imply the need that they be considered so in order to maintain the market values previously generated (or sought to be generated) through such classification of like objects as rare?Logically wondering... must the authenticity of newly discovered comparable examples that challenge earlier claims of a particular object's rarity be presumed false since we were once told the class of object is rare, as if de facto? And what do we do in the case of objects previously defined as rare that new knowledge suggests are relatively more common? What takes precedence -- market history or scientific analysis -- in this determination? Who makes the call? On what basis is the determination made? What are the motivations behind the use of the classification? Once objects have been designated -- and sold -- as "rare," what objectivity remains to reclassify the object otherwise? Is the primary objective to maintain the market value (and commitment to the client to whom the implicit promise is made)? Or, is the ultimate objective to represent and recast object's identity and value as part of an ever-changing understanding of the works emerging from diverse cultural milieus? Would reclassification of the rarity of objects be more fluid in a context wherein market value was not a pressure?Four related questions to illuminate the point:1) How many authentic (let's say...) Eyema Byeri could have existed (and/or survived) from the period of ritual production (and what is the accurate time-framing of this period of ritual production?) ?2) How many Eyema Byeri can be considered authentic without diminishing the value of those which have been bought or sold based on the premise that they are indeed rare?3) Would it be possible to consider more "objectively" newly discovered examples if market pressures did not impact upon the analysis of the objects's authenticity?4) Does the insistence upon the object class's rarity super-cede future "objective" analysis and possible inclusion of other examples within the class of authentic objects?When we use the term "rare" as a primary defining feature of an object, do we mean that few were produced, or that few are available on the market? It is much more difficult to elicit an extremely high bid or price for something which is broadly available -- unless its unique qualities (such as "fineness" or "rarity") can be seen to distinguish it from other related objects within the class. In some cases, the "rarity" of a seemingly common object or form is posited on the ability to document its provenance -- from an early period and/or a specific gathering, collection or exhibition history -- and thus to distinguish it from other examples, or offerings that may be authentic examples from later periods of production but not desirable in light of a predilection for older works. (Here we are drawn back into the conflation of authenticity and age... Can we not consider newly discovered objects as authentic because there is no scientific proof of ritual use? Or, can we not consider them as such because this will subvert previously established market values? Again, in order to grapple with assignations such as "rare" and "authentic," we must define our terms: Is an object rare in terms of age? form? provenance?)The idea of "rarity" may arise also in the consideration of works that are gathered from smaller, lesser known or minimally accessible populations. As such, the quality of rarity may derive from the fact that a particular object is of an object class that is logically fewer in number simply because it arises from a more limited population, or perhaps arises from a culture that was subsumed by a more dominant political culture in a region and thus ceased to exist in its previous "unadulterated" style.Are there very few? Or, are there very to be had? Is a type of object rare in what sense? A need exists to specify what exactly is "rare" about an object. (How is the term being used?) For instance, is a particular "rare" object a rare example from a specific period and distinguished from other later examples of which there are many? Or is the form itself rare because it is hardly ever seen at all from any period? Or... perhaps an object could be considered rare because of specific elements that distinguish it from a larger body of similar objects but which tend not to consist of certain details (e.g., a Janus example of a mask that is generally produced as a single-faced mask or an object produced in metal that is usually crafted in wood). Some objects are rare to the market perhaps but may have been plentiful in situ at one point and not accessible, or appropriate, for collection or commercial trade. Others are seemingly plentiful but, lacking provenance documentation, do not have the "pedigree" to be placed within a particular historical period or commercial class. So, what attributes of a specific object are we considering in classifying it as rare?Again, these are just some general thoughts and I apologize if my comments are "rare" (i.e., not well cooked). For reference, I touched upon some of these matters in the latter half of a previous posting long ago with specific references to the May, 2005 auction at Sotheby's (http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/message/ 101).In short, one must define one's terms and explore the underlying assumptions and objectives brought to bear in applying such a classification with regard to rarity. What is rarest of all things is, quite clearly, a simple answer to questions pertaining to matters of classification, representation and truth.I will be interested to hear other thoughts and opinions on this topic. LeeOn Jan 12, 2007, at 10:32 AM, gazelle252000 wrote:Many items are described as rare. How can you determine if that is true
if there are few examples of it. What makes the dealer assume that it
is rare-especially if it isnt the standard? elly
The fish are biting.
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- Dear Vero, dear Lee, Not only in comparison to Ebay dealers the vocabulary of the Auctioneers is poor. The reason? I am not quite sure, but I think there areMessage 2 of 6 , Jan 13, 2007View SourceDear Vero, dear Lee,Not only in comparison to Ebay dealers the vocabulary of the Auctioneers is poor.The reason? I am not quite sure, but I think there are three main-points.1. The client has to get confidence, which is extremly important. Words like "uprising fromwedge-shaped, block-shaped or fragmentary feet" normally content no lie, which is "extremly rare" forthe practice to deal in particular for a potential criminal like an auctioneer.2. To frustrate the potential client a little bit. As longer as the description is, which issaying absolutly nothing more than you can see already, the longing inside of the clientis growing to come finally at the end of this tunnel of nonsense. The consequecefor the consciousness of the client: He becomes a little bit sleepy by all these boringwords, which are saying nothing.3. After the client got confidence and is already a little bit sleepy the auctioneer canstart with his lies. These are normally written in the footnotes, in particular in thequotes of literature: "if it is in a book - the same or a similar piece -it must be good!" So the sleepy client starts to dream... It doesn´t matter how ugly an object is,a quoted description in literature, which sounds a little bit scientific or a beautiful photo of a"related exemplare", is the best push for selling crows as pets.It´s Saturday not Sunday in Berlin. But maybe it will be a little bit rainy tomorow andthan, Vero, it´s time to play your little game...or time to invent a special game in relationto the poor auctioneers and their little victims...;-)PaoloAm 13.01.2007 um 00:38 schrieb Veronique Martelliere:
- I ll take a shot at parsing rare . The only kind of rare that I think is totally legit is when only a few examples of a highly-valued and well-documentedMessage 3 of 6 , Jan 13, 2007View SourceI'll take a shot at parsing "rare".
The only kind of "rare" that I think is totally
legit is when only a few examples of a highly-valued
and well-documented type (in terms of age, style, AND
function) exist in academically impeccable
collections and then another one comes to market
with no question as to its authenticity and aesthetic
Every other use of the word "rare" is polluted to one
extent or another by one or more of the commercial
considerations already discussed. The question of
course (as always) is "how polluted?" How much of
the description is hype and how much of it is, if
not rigidly scientific, at least consistent with
the preponderance of opinion of those who know and
In other words, whether its a major auction house,
or a minor dealer, where there's selling there's
hyping and that will never change. Lies and errors
can be policed by individuals, but only the market
can police hype. The only thing an individual can
do is listen to Public Enemy and "Don't believe
the hype!" Rely on your own judgement and that of
those you completely trust.
One last thought on "rare". As I first stated,
a certain kind of documented rarity can and should
positively impact value. But something can be too
rare, in other words, anomalous, so that even if
it is beautiful and seemingly authentic, the market
will often shy away from it because there's nothing
to compare it to.
And that's when, to bring us full circle, a high-
powered dealer buys it for next to nothing,
"authenticates" it, pronounces it not an anomaly
but rather wonderfully "rare", and puts six figures
on it. If that dealer's honest and skilled, he's
done the cultural world a favor. And if he's not,
he hasn't. And often only time will tell which it is.
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