Sharon, Julian and family finished their cruise and went home to await the arrival of their purchases.
Some time after arriving back in the UK, they received a phone call from Morris Shapiro, Gallery Director of Park West Gallery, offering to sell them a complete set of Salvador Dali's Divine Comedy prints - a full set of six books with Dante's text, and each set individually signed in pencil by Salvador Dali himself and Jean Estrade, the publisher of the French edition of Divine Comedy prints.
Some back and forth ensued between Julian and Morris which culminated in the purchase of the full set. The price was $450,040.00 plus a buyer's premium. Buyer's premiums are customary at auctions where work is consigned by a buyer to the auction house. The buyer's premium is how the auctioneer and auction house make their money. The grand total charged by Park West for their purchase of the full Divine Comedy set was $483,828.00. They were credited for some of their purchases aboard the Adventure of the Seas which they decided not to keep. What remained to be paid was $422,601.50. An invoice was sent to them by Park West with all the above fictitious details and the amount remaining to be paid.
They were instructed by Park West to wire this amount to a Royal Caribbean bank in Texas, which they did.
The shipment of the prints was sent to Mana Fine Arts art storage facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, and they were sent a "certificate of authenticity" signed by Morris Shapiro and an appraisal also signed by Morris Shapiro. Some copies of additional documents were sent by email, including an attestation by Jean Estrade and Daniel David of Les Heures Claires in Paris and a Professional Opinion by a Santa Fe, NM appraiser, Bernard Ewell, to support the authenticity of the prints that were purchased.."
I am not a Dali expert nor have I had access to the documentation that specifically relates to the purchase of Dali's Divine Comedy set for $483,828.00. What I do have is the Park West appraisal that accompanied the sale that was provided by the purchasers to the Fine Art Registry website . The three page document is printed below. I want to examine this document in order to see if it conforms to current accepted standards of appraisal practice. The standard that is currently accepted by both real property and personal property appraisers is the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice 2010 (USPAP).
I have only listed those elements that I fail to see included in this document. You be the judge whether this list is accurate and whether this appraisal complies with USPAP.
1. Standard 8 (b)b (i) - State the identity of the client and any intended users, by name or type - Julian Howard's name is listed on page one; however he is not identified as the client nor are any intended users listed.
2. Standard 8 (b) (ii) - State the intended use of the appraisal - The words "retail replacement appear on page one but they are listed as "the current Park West retail replacement price". Is this a value for obtaining insurance coverage or confirmation of sale price.. or maybe both. It is not stated. If Park West is providing a "retail replacement price" to confirm their own sale price, it would be troublesome.
3. Standard 8 (b) (iii) - Summarize information sufficient to identify the property involved in the appraisal including the physical and economic property characteristics relevant to the assignment. The complete set is described as 100 wood engravings. Did Dali make more than one set? What is the condition of the appraised set? What are the dimensions? No description is actually provided of the wood engravings.
4. Standard 8 (b) (v) State the type and definition of value and cite the source of the definition. There is no definition of retail replacement.
5. Standard 8 (b) (vi) State the effective date of the appraisal and the date of the report. The effective date of the appraisal establishes the context for the value opinion, while the date of the report indicates whether the perspective of the appraiser on the market and property as of the effective date of the appraisal was prospective, current, or retrospective. This is a very critical point because you have no idea whether Park West's value conclusion is supported by past, current, or future data. There is no effective date stated.
6. Standard 8 (b) (vii) Summarize the scope of work used to develop the appraisal. No scope of work is included in the appraisal.
7. Standard 8 (b) (viii) Summarize the information analyzed, the appraisal methods and techniques employed, and the reasoning that supports the analyses, opinions and conclusions; exclusion of the sales comparison approach, cost approach, or income approach must be explained. There is no summary of any methodology, techniques, reasoning, analysis, opinions considered, or conclusions that supported the Park West appraisal.
8. Standard 8 (b) (xi) Include a signed certification in accordance with Standards Rule 8 - 3
a. I have no (or the specified) present or prospective interest in the property that is the
subject of this report and no (or the specified) personal interest with respect to the
parties involved. Park West who signed this appraisal clearly has an interest in the property.
b. I have no bias with respect to the property that is the subject of this report or to the parties involved with this assignment. The individual who signed the appraisal is a major principal with Park West and must realistically be presumed to be biased.
c. my engagement in this assignment was not contingent upon developing or reporting. I can not know Mr. Shapiro's mind;however, I would think if he had appraised this object lower than the gallery sales price it would have been most unusual.
d. predetermined results. One can only speculate whether the results were predetermined by the sales price. What would a reasonable person assume?
e. my compensation for completing this assignment is not contingent upon the development or reporting of a predetermined value or direction in value that favors the cause of the client, the amount of the value opinion, the attainment of a stipulated result, or the occurrence of a subsequent event directly related to the intended use of this appraisal. One can only speculate whether the results were predetermined by the sales price. What would a reasonable person assume?
f. my analyses, opinions, and conclusions were developed, and this report has been prepared, in conformity with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. That was not stated so there is no way of knowing whether this appraiser was aware of USPAP
g. I have (or have not) made a personal inspection of the property that is the subject of this report. (If more than one person signs this certification, the certification must clearly specify which individuals did and which individuals did not make a personal inspection of the appraised property.)" There was no statement of inspection indicating that Mr. Shapiro of anyone not signing the appraisal report made an inspection.
h. no one provided significant personal property appraisal assistance to the person signing this certification. (If there are exceptions, the name of each individual providing significant personal property appraisal assistance must be stated.) There was no statement indicating that anyone other than Mr. Shapiro provided assistance on this appraisal.
Comment: A signed certification is an integral part of the appraisal report. An appraiser who
signs any part of the appraisal report, including a letter of transmittal, must also sign this certification. The certification statement was not provided nor was it signed by Mr. Shapiro.
Clearly there is enough information here for a reasonable person to conclude that Park West appraisals do not conform to accepted appraisal industry standards. However, this is hardly a gotcha moment as can be seen in Park West's Terms of Appraisal. Park West makes it emphatically clear that Park West will not stand behind their appraisals: "By issuing this Appraisal, Park West makes no warranties or representations, express or implied, with respect to the artwork or its authenticity." The gallery is very much out in the open that their appraisals are not really useful for anything such as obtaining insurance, collateralizing a loan, resale, divorce settlement, etc. So why would you the purchaser pay for an appraisal signed by Mr. Shapiro, the gallery director? The only purpose that I can see for buying this appraisal is to feel good personally about your purchase. So in this sense and in my opinion the appraisal is a marketing tool for Park West.
The question that comes to mind is do these purchasers really understand this appraisal process. If Park West Gallery grants me a written interview this will certainly be one of the questions I ask. Undoubtedly, the lawyers in the upcoming law suits will have many questions to ask.