Expertise: two separate processes that are often confused

First, an expert provides a description of a work of art, which involves issues of authentification and even attribution. Once these have been settled, an expert will then provide an appraisal. The first process requires knowledge of art history, while the second involves a good understanding of the art market. This is why experts must be extremely familiar with how the market operates, with the ability to decipher results available online. In the art world, taking readily available information at face value – even when it is not free of charge – is the best way to under- or over-estimate the value of an artwork. This leads to disappointment when the work sells – or when it doesn't sell at all.

That being said, although experts are better placed than their clients when it comes to appraising a work of art, prudence should be their watchword. A jack-of-all-trades is generally a master of none. How could anyone hope to develop an expertise in such widely differing fields as old master paintings, silver, carpets and period furniture? This is, at any rate, our view of expertise.


Appraisal of a work of art is not an exact science, and there is no such thing as a True Price.

An expert will provide you with an estimate, a term that accurately describes the speculative aspect of appraisals. Since each work of art is unique, experts will search for comparable works that have recently been sold at public auction (or ones they know of on the private market). Their experience makes they uniquely capable of interpreting sale prices available from online databases.

Every work of art has two values. In the same way that every financial product has a bid price and an offer price, in the art world we make a distinction between the realisable value and the acquisition value. The gap between the amount of money asked for a work of art, and the amount that this same work of art would bring in if you were to sell it is the difference between the work's offer and bid prices – the profit margin in the art trade.

Do you need an appraisal for insurance purposes, or for reasons having to do with a division of assets or a succession? Or are you contemplating a major purchase? The services of an expert are the only way to obtain reliable, confidential information adapted to your situation.


Whether your collection consists of ten works of art or hundreds, possessing an inventory of them is crucial.

Whether you are dividing your assets, making a donation or taking out an insurance policy, the day will come when an inventory will save you a great deal of difficulty. Under less happy circumstances, an inventory is vital if, by some mischance, you suffer the loss of a part of your collection.

If your collection includes objects that fall outside of our in-house areas of competence, we can call upon an extensive network of individuals with expertise in more specialised segments of the art market.


Buying a work of art should be a pleasure. Making the right choice can help make the pleasure last.

As experts in old-master paintings and in modern and contemporary art, we advise a wide range of clients, from experienced collectors looking for a specific work to newcomers seeking help with a first purchase. If a client wishes to acquire a work of art that falls outside the scope of our abilities, we can call on an extensive network of individuals with expertise in most sectors of the art market. Our clients can have complete confidence in their help and advice.

We offer our opinion concerning the quality of a work as well as its condition – and, of course, the price the seller is asking. If you wish, we can negotiate the purchase on your behalf. We can also represent you at auctions, after agreeing on a maximum bid.

Moreover, we can provide our services throughout the acquisition process: after discussing your budget with you, we can go in search of the artwork of your dreams.

We never own the works that we offer for sale, and when we advise you to acquire one work of art instead of another, the only interests we have in mind are yours. Our independence is your guarantee. What is more, we work in complete openness, involving you in every stage of the purchase transaction.


Selling a work of art is a more complex transaction than it may appear

Of course, you can always "get rid" of a work to the first person that comes along. But this is no way to maximise your profit – or even to get a decent price. As it turns out, selling a work of art in the wrong place or to the wrong person can be disastrous for the seller (and extremely profitable for the buyer!), in the same way as offering it for sale everywhere (resulting in the work being "burned", in art market parlance).

A more cost-effective and safer alternative involves asking a professional to find the best venue for you. The Bounameaux consultancy will defend your interests while assisting you in selling works of art or an entire collection. We do not purchase the works that we are entrusted to sell – we act as a broker, and are compensated by a commission on the sale. For the seller, this commission is a small part of the added value that our involvement may represent. Our clients' interests are therefore our interests as well.

Solutions for professionals

We can put our strengths to work in the service of our clients, providing real "management" for their art collections. We also provide consulting services for a number of professionals who wish to pass on our expertise to individuals whose trust they have earned. Wealth managers, insurance brokers, notaries and lawyers consult with us in order to more effectively defend their clients' interests.

About us

The Bounameaux consultancy was founded in 1993 by Henry Bounameaux.

We are the number one independent Belgian consultancy. From the very beginning, we have never been connected to any auction house or art dealer. On the contrary, our philosophy has always been to provide the best solution for our clients; their interests are all that matters.

Henry Bounameaux holds degrees in law, archaeology and art history. He is a member of the Belgian Association of Art Experts (Chambre Belge des Experts en Œuvres d’Art), and has served as chair between 2005 and 2014. Nowadays he officiates as vice president of the Association. In 2010, he was elected president of the European Confederation of Art Experts. For a number of years he has taught at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, as well as at the University of Paris II-Assas, where he gives the introductory course in the module "Legal and Technical Aspects of the Expertise of Artworks."

In 2007, Johan Vonck joined the consultancy. He holds degrees in archaeology and art history, as well as in cultural management. He is a member of the Belgian Association of Art Experts (Chambre Belge des Experts en Œuvres d’Art) and specifically provides expertise in the area of modern and contemporary art.

After having worked in China and the United States, Jim Becker joined our team in 2013. Holding a Master degree in Archeology and Art history, he is responsible for the inventories and the relations with the art experts we work with.

As Montaigne observed, "it is a learned ignorance that knows itself". We will unhesitatingly defer to others in areas outside the scope of our competence, while remaining your main point of contact and keeping, should you desire, your identity secret. Your dealings with us remain completely and totally confidential. Through us, you have access to our extensive network of experts, whose skills and integrity we can guarantee. Thanks to their knowledge, we can provide you with the best possible advice, whether on the occasion of a sale, a purchase or any issues involving succession or inheritance.


When it comes to personal assets, discretion is essential

We take this principle one step further – we guarantee you total professional secrecy. Only you have the right to be told about what you own. This is why we offer our clients the possibility of letting us take care of everything that has to do with transactions involving third parties (transport, framing, etc.). The work is deposited with these professionals by us or picked up at our offices. In this way, your name and address remain unknown.

Finally, we don't have subsidiaries everywhere – you can rest assured that your inventory won't end up halfway around the world!


Our fees are calculated on the basis of the work with which you entrust us. An estimate will be provided beforehand.

Our authentification and attribution services are calculated based on an hourly rate. To help our clients to keep their costs under control, together we agree on a maximum number of hours that will be spent. Any overrun will be the subject of a new agreement.

When it comes to appraisal, we systematically propose a flat fee for each work of art to be appraised. This fee varies depending on the number of works we are being asked to appraise.

When we advise a collector as part of a sale of a work of art, our compensation comes in the form of a commission. The amount of the commission is agreed upon in advance, and is based on the complexity of the transaction. Nevertheless, when we advise you to entrust an auction house with the work, it is the auction house that pays us. This is a professional practice that is found the world over, and one that releases you from having to pay our fees.

When it comes to purchasing a work of art, we are also paid by commission, and only in the case that the transaction takes place.

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