Local art appraiser spurred by her love of the craft
Soltesz has enjoyed 25 years in the business
Melissa Soltesz is passionate about fine art.
The former art consultant for Julie Nester Gallery in Park City and former director of the Upfor Gallery in Portland, Oregon, is utilizing her 25-year experience in the art world to focus on her fine-art advising and appraising services.
“I want to connect folks with artists I’ve been exposed to within the 25-year experience,” Soltesz said. “I also want to help people understand the value of the art they have in their homes.”
Soltesz began professionally appraising art in 2007, after receiving her certificate in appraisal studies in fine and decorative arts in a partnership program between the University of California Irvine and the American Society of Appraisers.
An appraisal is an unbiased opinion of value formed by accurately identifying the object and researching and analyzing the appropriate market, according to Soltesz.
“More than 95% of the appraisals I do are for insurance purposes,” she said. “I looked at the growth of Park City and know the number of folks moving into the area are adjusting their insurance policies. So it kind of made sense for me to help them appraise their art.”
When appraising art, Soltesz first makes sure the art falls into her area of expertise, which is modern and contemporary art.
“I also focus on a variety of medium — painting, sculpture, photography, limited-edition prints,” she said.
After setting up a time with the art owners, Soltesz meets them at their homes to see their collections.
“I go to them, because it doesn’t make sense to move artwork, because you just want to limit time in transit to forgo any damage to the pieces,” she said. “I get to go behind the scenes and see these treasures that are in private homes. Sometimes these pieces are museum-quality work, and the collections are rather large, not only in scope, but in size as well.”
Once Soltesz gains access to the works, she begins her inspection.
“I basically do a recording of the piece,” she said. “I’ll take photographs and then gather all the pertinent information that includes the artists’ names, the titles and dimensions of the works, and years these pieces were created.”
From there, the appraisal process becomes a hands-off scenario, which works well during the pandemic, Soltesz said with a laugh.
“I go and do research and create an appraisal document for the client,” she said.
While there is no state or federal licensing for personal property appraisers, Soltesz and other appraisers distinguish themselves through professional appraisal organizations, such as the American Society of Appraisers, and all qualified appraisers must adhere to a formal set of standards when putting together clients’ documents, she said.
The documents include all of Soltesz’s research, as well as images of comparable pieces of art that she has come across.
“All art is unique, so I will look at pieces that have been created in the same time frame or that have the same subject matter,” she said.
The document will also include information of the galleries Soltesz has contacted, as well as auction results and market research.
One thing Soltesz wants to make clear is that appraisers are valuers, not authenticators.
“The artist that created the work is the only true authenticator, and if they are no longer living then one must depend on known and respected experts for the particular artist,” she said.
So, when Soltesz prepares a document, it is to show only the monetary value of the work.
“Basically anyone who reads the document can draw a line to how I came up with the value I did,” she said. “So even if you’re looking to get only one piece appraised, the document may still be 13 pages long.”
Soltesz decided to put her appraising skills front and center after closing the art-gallery chapter of her life in Portland, where she has lived for the past five years.
“When I moved there from Park City, I had the opportunity to start a pop-up gallery in a space I had for a year,” she said. “I knew from the get-go it was a short-term thing.”
During that year, Soltesz set up a number of exhibits and met many gallery owners.
“One of these gallerists approached me about becoming the director of a gallery in town after I closed my space,” she said. “So, I took over as director of Upfor Gallery for four years, and it was a really wonderful experience.”
As gallery director, Soltesz’s chief role was in art sales, and she would travel to art fairs in Miami and Mexico City, and across the country from New York to California.
“Many people think art fairs are like art festivals, but they’re not at all,” she said. “I liken art fairs to trade shows where private collectors can buy artwork. They are also places where gallery owners and museum curators from all over the world can get in touch with artists and other gallery owners.”
During these trips, Soltesz would meet with others and talk about art for eight hours a day, she said.
“I’m an art nerd, and I enjoy the research,” she said. “I like to dive deep, because I know the role art has played in my life and the positive effects it brings to my life. So, to be able to connect people to art in an advisory sense is a special experience for me.”
For information about Melissa Soltesz, call 435-901-0961, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit solteszfineart.com.
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