Appraising the OCMA works


The Orange County Museum of Art sold 18 California Impressionist paintings to an unnamed collector for $963,000. Was that a fair price, or a bonanza for the buyer? Some critics of the private sale say the art would have sold for at least twice as much at a public auction.

“Silver and Gold” by Granville Redmond is the prize of the collection. Here is how the museum, and experts who specialize in California Impressionists, assessed its value.

OCMA director Dennis Szakacs has said that the price was in line with what a prominent L.A. appraiser and a top auction house said the early 20th century works were worth, given a balky art market. He also pointed to an Oct. 29, 2008, auction at Christie’s in Beverly Hills, featuring California, Western and American art. The three Redmonds on display failed to sell.


William H. Gerdts, a retired City University of New York art history professor whose many books on American art include “California Impressionism,” puts the value of “Silver and Gold” alone at $1 million, “the economy be damned.”

Whitney Ganz, who specializes in early California paintings as director of the William A. Karges Fine Arts gallery in Beverly Hills, says the October auction was not a reasonable barometer.

“That would probably be the response of an outsider looking in, who didn’t really understand the early California art market, and didn’t understand why one piece is considered great, and another mediocre,” Ganz said.

OCMA’s “Silver and Gold” is a classic of the genre, he says -- “a million dollar painting.”