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From Attic To Auction: Getting Top Dollar

"I love being around beautiful things," Stephen Fortner says from his art-filled pastoral haven near Victoria, "and I love doing the research to find the right places for my clients to sell their paintings, sculpture, and other fine art piece. It�s the best kind of detective work."

Stephen talks to department heads at major international auction houses, emails art scholars, and visits galleries in New York, London and beyond.

"When laypeople send a painting to an auction house, they go in at ground level," Stephen says. "When they ask me to help, I do some research and send the piece directly to the expert in the period or the person who specializes in a certain style. I know where to get the information or the authentication."

And sometimes that makes the difference between Aunt Mabel�s painting fetching $100, $1,000, or sending it to the marketplace where it will sell for tens of thousands.

Stephen describes a painting by English artist Julius Olsson (1864-1942). Stephen bought the picture at auction in Victoria, and Sotheby�s then sold the picture in London for three times what he paid. He has done the same thing with other paintings � buying them at Canadian auctions, for example, and selling them closer to their provenance.

"My specialty is taking the art back to where it came from," Stephen said. "That�s often where sellers can get the best price."

But more than just location, Stephen also tracks sales and collections of similar pieces.

"I consider whether it�s a noteworthy piece, whether it�s a good time to buy or sell it, which way the market�s going for a style or period..." Stephen says.

A goldsmith and jeweller for almost 30 years, Stephen has brought his collector�s eye, attention to detail and small-town values to his fine art liaison work.

"I put my clients� interests first," he explains.

"I treat them with respect and they benefit from my relationships with international experts. People have lots of reasons for wanting to sell or buy - I just help them."

Stephen has been asked by auction houses to work for them, but he prefers independence. "This way," he explains, "I can handle each deal to best suit the client."

For example, Stephen explains that much as he likes dealing with Sotheby�s, he recently sent a Percy Gray (1865-1952) watercolour to Bonham�s & Butterfields in California. Gray painted in Carmel and the subject of the 1925 painting is a local scene. "The painting is worth more there," he says. "It�s a business decision."

When he sold a painting for a Swiss client recently, he researched the picture, made the arrangements, flew to London to handle negotiations with the auction house and attended the sale with the client.

"Not everyone wants or needs that much," Stephen says. "I offer a complimentary first visit at their home or my office, and then they can decide if they want my help. We�ll talk about what kind of research I might do, where the market is going, whether they�ll need help with paperwork and customs."

Give yourself the best value, take the mystery out of buying or selling your treasures - call Stephen Fortner.


Fortner Fine Art | 250-479-6413

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