Leslie Hindman on Buying Art and Antiques

WHAT THE PROS KNOW: Leslie Hindman, CEO of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, on what she has learned over decades in the business about spotting trends, what to invest in, and how to get the most for your money

Interview conducted and condensed by Jeff Bailey

Leslie Hindman

What’s hot among auction buyers?
Midcentury modern furniture is one thing that’s hot right now, which can mean that it’s overpriced. If people like English and French furniture, they should buy it now because it’s relatively cheap. But really, people shouldn’t buy something just because it’s hot. You need to discover what you really like—paintings, furniture, jewelry, whatever. Invest some time learning about these things and then buy what pleases you. The first rule of collecting: Only buy things you like, because you can never be guaranteed they will be a good investment.

So what’s fashionable shouldn’t trump what’s tasteful?
Some people think they don’t even know what they like. One way to determine what you like is simply to go to a museum and walk around. Or get an art history book. And pretty soon you’ll realize that you do know what you like. You like abstract expressionists? Buy the best John Little painting you can afford instead of a poor-quality Willem de Kooning.

Why?
An artist’s best work tends to appreciate. We always recommend buying the best of a lesser-priced artist rather than the worst of a higher-priced artist. Among Chicago imagists, buy a great Jim Nutt, not a bad Ed Paschke; British sculpture—buy a great Lynn Chadwick, not a bad Henry Moore; watches—buy a stainless steel Patek Philippe, not an 18-karat-gold Movado; crystal—buy a top-of-the-line Steuben rather than a lower-end Tiffany. You get the idea.

How does a know-nothing like me follow art prices?
It’s easier to follow the art market now, including what sold for how much, than it was in 1982, when I first opened an auction house, thanks to sites like Artnet.com, Artfact.com, AskART.com, Artprice.com, and Artinfo.com.

Auctions seem so dramatic. Do regular people belong at one?
We have 30 to 40 auctions a year, and some people are intimidated because of what they’ve seen on television or in the press—all those very, very high-end auctions in New York or London. People call and ask me, “What should I wear?” Wear whatever you’re wearing, I say. You can buy something for $5,000 or even $500 at auction. At a jewelry auction we had in September, we sold a 7.52-carat diamond ring, beautifully set in platinum, for $268,000, but we also sold a group of coral necklaces for $223.20.

What do you buy?
Oh God, please don’t ask me what I collect. I don’t buy anything. I can’t afford what I really would like to own, like a Mark Rothko or Franz Kline painting. I have a drawing that looks like a Franz Kline—it’s from the fifties, and it cost $5,000. Mostly I have a lot of taxidermy. My friend Mike Sneed, the Sun-Times columnist, always hits her head on the mounted zebra head that sticks out of my dining room wall. She hates it. For some reason, it appeals to me.

 

Photography: Bob Stefko

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2 years ago
Posted by ellicat

Dear Ms. Hindman,

I'm considering making an across-the-country move. I have two rooms (dining and bedroom) of Weiman furniture purchased right off the factory floor in 1956.

Is it worth moving this furniture or should I put them up for sale? They are mid-century, so how do they fall in today's market?

ellicat

2 years ago
Posted by kk

Dear Ms. Hindman,
I have an an Extremely Rare Chinese Carved White Jade Figural Scenic Imperially Inscribed Table Screen Plaque with Carved Spinach Jade"The Plaque has a Very Finely Carved Gold Gilt Inscription on the back which I am told indicates the Plaque is an Imperial made example, and of the Qianlong dynasty. I really have no idea myself and I have not handled anything like this so I will ask you helpping me find out its age and value for putting on your auction.
This Table Screen Plaque with Carved Spinach Jade is 35cm in height .a very large size of white jade.
please let me know,and how can I send you pictures of that object.
THanks for your time.
Ken

2 years ago
Posted by Elizabeth Riley (Chicago magazine)

Hi Ken,

It's probably best to contact Leslie Hindman Auctioneers directly to discuss specific items. Here's the contact page, which lists every department and what items they represent. I hope this helps. http://www.lesliehindman.com/contact/

Best,

Elizabeth

4 days ago
Posted by mike g. logan

I have an Ethan Allen mahogany dinning room set. It includes expandable table with two leaves and eight chairs. excellent condition. I would like to consign it if you are interested.

Thanks

Mike Logan

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