First impressions count; don’t judge a book by its cover; you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig; quality shouts: contradictory aphorisms come thick and fast in many walks of life, but few apply as often as to the fine art and antique world, especially when it comes to auctions.
So what is the best advice to follow when confronted by a lot that piques your interest?
If possible – and this is often not the case now, thanks to the internet and access to auctions on a global basis – go to the view and look at the item in person.
Ask yourself a few questions? Does it look like the real deal? Does the estimate reflect its value? If you look past the flaws, damage etc, does the quality really shout out from beneath?
If you are an expert in your field, it’s true that first impressions really do count. You may immediately recognise the typical motifs or style of an artist that others have missed; or you may also spot that something isn’t quite right and the mark and period Qianlong vase you hankered after is actually a later copy.
But for the less expert among you, ignore what everyone else does and look beyond the cracked glass and the ugly frame – both of which can be replaced – and ask yourself: how good a picture is this and do I really like it? That is the way to snapping up a real bargain.