MIDLAND PARK, N.J. – Les and Sue Fox, professional art brokers with West Highland Art Brokers, have developed a method of partnering with consigners to sell art, which touts benefits of both selling directly and consigning with an auction house.
West Highland Art Brokers will buy original paintings by listed artists, then partner with the former art owners to sell at auction and split the profit. For example, if a dealer will buy your 1930s Emile Gruppe harbor scene for $5,000 (hoping to sell it for $10,000), the Foxes will pay you $5,000 and sell it at auction. If it auctions for $10,000, both partners share the extra $5,000. (If a dealer sells it for $10,000, he keeps the extra $5,000.)
“There’s no tricks here,” explained Les Fox, who managed the gold and rare coin department of an international bank in the 1970s. “We simply calculate how much we think a painting will sell for at public auction and offer a cash price. We only broker paintings by listed artists with auction records.”
He told Antique Trader that if they’ve done their homework properly, there won’t be any “surprises” when it comes time to auction, because they’ll have estimated the value accurately.
Among the popular artists the Foxes broker are Hayley Lever, Fern Coppedge, Anthony Thieme and Aldro Hibbard.
“We like artists with a solid, long-term track record,” said Sue, a full-time partner in the family-run business for more than 30 years. “But we will invest in any American or European artist as long as we can predict the auction price.”
“We are familiar with all types of art,” said Les. “We spend a lot of time in museums, and we constantly monitor auctions and gallery prices. We are just as comfortable with an Andy Warhol, a Milton Avery or an Alice Neel as we are with an Albert Bierstadt or a Childe Hassam. However, we are looking for fine quality examples of an artist’s work, not mediocre paintings or leftovers from old auctions or dealer inventory. We do extensive research into the background and desirability of a painting before making a financial commitment and choosing the right auction for each work.”
The Foxes generally buy art worth $5,000 to $500,000, but they will partner on million-dollar (and up) paintings, including Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth, and artists from the Hudson River School, Impressionism and Modernism genres.
Les also told Antique Trader that West Highland doesn’t handle paintings worth less than $5,000 because the seller would be better off approaching an auction house themselves, which, with their extensive experience and insight, they are happy to recommend.
To encourage potential clients to consider using their art auction services, West Highland offers a free, no-obligation appraisal service. They evaluate original oils and watercolors (not prints or reproductions), as well as sculpture, folk art and certain antiques, like Tiffany, at no charge – even if the artwork is valued at less than $5,000. “It’s fun and exciting to tell people what they have,” Les Fox says. “And it’s just good customer service.”
They also explain to the owner the risks and rewards of selling directly at auction compared to selling to West Highland Art Brokers and splitting the potential auction profit.
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