Davenport's Art Price Reference 2009/2010; Book and CD-ROM
Read about the latest Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2012 Edition, Book & CD-ROM here.
The best one-stop quick-fix art reference on the market today remains Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2009/2010 Edition book and CD-ROM published by LTB Gordonsart Inc. It's fast, easy to use, comprehensive, and loaded with data-- now providing basic biographical and price information for over 320,000 artists, about 20,000 more names than the last edition. Plus over 160,000 listings contained in the previous edition have been revised and updated. The reference includes basic data on every artist listed-- when available-- including the artist's full name, birth and death dates (if known), countries of residence, specialties (painter, etcher, etc.), typical subject matters and mediums, auction sales prices, price ranges, names of auction houses where the artist's art has sold (sometimes with specific sales dates), and names of reference books containing additional biographical information (sometimes also noting the amounts of information contained in those books).
The primary advantage of Davenport's book and CD-ROM over other art reference books and online databases being able to find out fast whether an artist and has had art sold at auction. Without it, you would have to repeatedly check various reference books, databases, and price resources hoping to find information. Once you locate an artist's name, you also learn what standard references or auction houses contain additional information. The best part about the index is that it provides data on many obscure and minor artists, especially American, who are listed hardly anywhere else-- and whose art may never have appeared at auction.
Now the book is good, but the CD-ROM is better, mainly because of the search option that matches artist names with partial signatures. For example, if you identify the letters "Po-l-ck" in the artist's name, then you search the CD-ROM by typing in "po*l*ck" (typing an asterisk in place of each missing letter), all artist names with letters matching that configuration come up. In the old days, before the CD-ROM, I had to page through the Davenport's book over and over again trying various letter placements and permutations in attempts to match missing letters in partial signatures-- often looking at hundreds of names before finally making a match-- or finding no match and giving up. That frustrating tedium is now a thing of the past.
Several cautions abou using Davenport's: First of all, it's only a beginning. Be aware that price information you find is a representative sampling, an approximate indicator, of what an artist's art may be worth. More research will be necessary-- even required-- in order to obtain a more complete picture of an artist's market. Additionally, not all Davenport's prices are current-- some may be older, outdated, or at times listed as ranges rather than as specific documented dollar amounts. The bracketed date at the end of most artist entries, like  for example, is especially important and indicates the most recent year in which a listing has been updated. While an artist's basic biographical data changes little or not at all from year to year, his or her price information may vary substantially over time, so pay close attention to that bracketed date-- the older it is, the less reliable the price information may be. Entries that lack bracketed dates also tend to be older and/or outdated, and over-reliance on those prices may be risky.
Speaking of price ranges, when you find them in artist listings (like 300-700, for example), that means no auction sales data is available. The editors did their best to include accurate ranges, but at times, they can be even more misleading than outdated auction results. Price ranges were most often approximated by early editors of Davenport's when they had little in the way of concrete data to go on, and are, at best, educated guesses as to value. With the passage of time, artist price ranges are in the process of gradually being replaced with actual auction results as they become available-- but in the meantime, if you happen to come across them, don't take them too seriously.
In spite of these minor drawbacks, Davenport's is among the top two or three most frequently consulted artist references in my library-- and I've got pretty much every artist dictionary, encyclopedia, index, price guide, who's who, CD-ROM, and online database at my fingertips. When I need information about an artist I'm not familiar with, Davenport's is far more often than not the first book I check. Don't build your art library without it.
Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2009/2010 Edition , LTB Gordonsart Inc., Phoenix, 2007, hardbound, 2421 pages, 8 3/4 by 11 1/4 inches, $219.
Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2009/2010 Edition , CD-ROM, LTB Gordonsart Inc., Phoenix, 2008, $249.
Available from LTB Gordonsart Inc., 13201 N. 35th Avenue, B-20, Phoenix, AZ 85029 or call 1-800-892-4622 or visit LTB Gordonsart online.
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