Amazon Art Overpriced, Says Art Expert Les Fox

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Author Of The Art Hunters Handbook Accuses Jeff Bezos Of Selling Art For More Than Current Value

The new Amazon Art Store clearly offers dramatically overpriced oil paintings.

"Amazon has always been one of my favorite companies," says Les Fox, N.Y. Times bestselling author of The Art Hunters Handbook. "They've built their business on customer service and selling millions of products at the lowest possible price. So I was shocked to browse the new Amazon Art Store, which clearly offers dramatically overpriced oil paintings."

Fox cites two examples. Willie Gillis, a 1941 painting by the iconic American illustrator Norman Rockwell, is available on Amazon for $4,850,000. In December, 2012, the painting was sold at a Chicago auction for $2.8 million. And City Hall, an early 20th century New York City winter scene by American Impressionist Johann Berthelsen, is priced at $68,500. In 2011, Christie's was unable to get a bid of at least $15,000 in New York. Most Berthelsens sell for around $20,000 at auction. The two paintings are listed on Amazon by M.S. Rau, a highly respected antiques and art dealer who has been in business since 1912.

"Both the Rockwell and the Berthelsen are great paintings," Les explained. "They're just not worth Amazon's selling prices. Willie Gillis was estimated to bring up to $5 million. It was compared to Rockwell's Rosie The Riveter, sold at Sotheby's for $4.9 million in 2002 and later bought by Alice Walton of Walmart for her billion dollar museum, Crystal Bridges. If a painting sells at auction for $2.8 million, it's probably not a great deal at nearly twice the price."

Fox acknowledges that paintings bought at auction are often resold in galleries for 50% to 100% more. But that rarely applies to a multi-million dollar work of art.

"As consumer advocates, we encourage people to consider auction records as the best indication of current market value. As art auction brokers, we provide free appraisals for thousands of people a year. We just want people to make an informed decision before they buy or sell. If a painting like the Berthelsen doesn't meet its minimum bid, it's safe to say it's not a great deal at four times that amount."

The Art Hunters Handbook by Les and Sue Fox is the first art book written for the average person, including garage sale lovers. The book features five pages about Norman Rockwell, including Steven Spielberg's and George Lucas' Rockwell collections. The book also reveals the art interests of President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, and other celebrities.

"The Amazon Art Store is an interesting concept. All we're saying is that art buyers and sellers need to understand the appraisal process. The value of art is not just a wild guess. Yes, if someone wants to buy a painting for $5 million, that's a personal decision. But if we can help them buy it for less, that's good too."

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