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  • Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2007/2008 Edition, Book & CD-ROM

    Posted June 21, 2007

    The new Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2007/2008 Edition book and CD-ROM is enlarged, updated and available from Gordonsart. Davenport's ranks among the best, easiest, fastest, and most comprehensive artist quick-fix references available anywhere-- including on the internet-- and now provides basic biographical and price information for over 300,000 artists, including 25,000 more names than the last edition. Each artist listing contains basic data, as available, such as the artist's full name, birth and death dates (when applicable), country of residence, specialties (painter, etcher, etc.), representative subject matters, 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 with additional biographical information along with estimations of the amounts of information contained in those books.

    The advantage of Davenport's book and CD-ROM over other art reference books and online databases is that you find out fast whether an artist is known and whether or not his or her work has sold at auction. Without it, you would have to look the artist up in multiple art reference books, databases, and price resources hoping to find information. And when you find the name, you also find out where to go next-- names of other books or auction houses. 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 even 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 the missing letters come up. I can't tell you how many times I've paged through the Davenport's book trying various letter placements and permutations in attempts to fill missing letters in partial signatures-- often looking at hundreds of names before finally making a match-- or giving up.

    Yes, Davenport's is good-- really good-- but be aware that its price information is abbreviated and only an approximate indicator of what an artist's art may be worth. Additional research is almost always necessary, in fact required. Some Davenport's prices may also be older, outdated, or in other cases given as price ranges rather than as actual documented auction sales results. The bracketed date at the end of most artist entries, like [2004] 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, 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, so relying on those prices could be risky too.

    While we're on the subject of price ranges, those found in certain artist listings (like 300-700, for example) appear when no auction sales data is available and at times can be even more misleading than outdated auction results. Price ranges were approximated by early editors of Davenport's -- whether or not those editors ever saw that art-- and are, at best, educated guesses as to value. The good news is that artist price ranges are in the process of being replaced with actual auction results as they become available, but due to the huge number of artists in the index, this process will take years to complete.

    So much for cautions. In spite of its minor drawbacks, Davenport's is among the two or three most frequently used 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 disposal. When someone asks me a question about an artist I'm not familiar with, Davenport's is often the first book I check. Don't enter artland without it.

    Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2007/2008 Edition , LTB Gordonsart Inc., Phoenix, 2007, hardbound, 2421 pages, 8 3/4 by 11 1/4 inches, $199.

    Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, 2007/2008 Edition , CD-ROM, LTB Gordonsart Inc., Phoenix, 2007, $229.

    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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