Tapestry is little-known and underappreciated medium when it comes to modern artists. Consequently tapestries are often undervalued. Important tapestries by 20th century masters like Picasso, Chagall, Miro and Leger have sold for less than their weaving costs.
Because it is such a thinly traded market, prices for tapestries are erratic. In the stock market where millions of shares trade every hour, the “spread” between the bid and ask price can be a fraction of a cent. With a tapestry of which only a few examples were woven, the spread can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. The same tapestry that brought its owner virtually nothing at an auction can and has been resold a short time later by a dealer for a huge sum. This is why dealers can sometimes “make a market” in rare pieces and ask enormous prices for tapestries that they’ve purchased inexpensively from private owners or at auction.
Tapestries by important modern artists like Picasso, Chagall, Miro, Leger, Calder, Delauany and many others appear at auctions at both Sotheby’s and Christie’s, at important regional auctions in the United States, and at lessor know venues throughout the world. Hammer prices can differ significantly from estimates depending upon who is bidding and why. A price below estimate doesn’t necessarily mean a bargain. Though it can, there might be other issues with the tapestry in question. A price above estimate doesn’t necessarily mean that the tapestry is too expensive, either — knowledgeable dealers can sometimes pay well over the high estimate and still hope to make profits in excess of 100%, and sometimes much more.
Dealers can be often be the best sources of quality material, however, though it is not incorrect for a buyer to expect a fair degree of transparency. In the United States Vojtech Blau and Jane Kahan are perhaps the best known, though many modern dealers end up with tapestries in their inventory and may have more (or less) attractive prices. Kashishian in London deals mostly with older tapestries but occasionally can be a source for modern ones, too. Tapestries by less well-known 20th century artists are often beautiful and can sell for vastly less than “name artists. 20th Century Tapestries – Sebastien Meunier in Paris is a comprehensive source for these.
If you are interested in purchasing, selling or exploring the possibilities of this medium, there are very few experts specializing in tapestries who can advise you, appraiser and consultant Charles Mathes being perhaps the most well-known.