We have received notices of two completely unrelated events, but perhaps one will be of interest to you. One concerns a course for appraisers to take place in San Francisco in early March. The other relates to two conferences for librarians in Malaysia during the spring and summer. We certainly recommend the latter if you can get your library to pick up the tab.
The American Society of Appraisers is sponsoring the conference How to be a Successful and Effective Expert Witness on March 5-6 at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. Appraisers are being called on regularly to appear in court in disputes over the value of objects, be they books, art, or anything else. Not only are their valuation services needed in cases involving disputing family members and other people, they are being called on regularly for testimony in Tax Court cases. The most effective appraisers need to know how to handle the rough and tumble world of court appearances and cross-examination.
The ASA pointed to a couple of recent tax cases as examples of the importance of solid appraisals. One involves the estate of artist Jean-Michael Basquiat. The estate and the IRS have a $66 million difference of opinion. The estate paid $8.5 million in estate taxes, but the IRS wants $10 million more. The major issue revolves around a “blockage discount.” There are 1,351 of Mr. Basquiat's paintings in the estate. The IRS might have their value right if each work could be sold in isolation to the others, but if the market were suddenly flooded with 1,351 painting by the same artist in order to pay off the estate's obligations, the sum that could be raised would be substantially less. Even a Shakespeare First Folio could be expected to decline in price if the Folger Library ever decided to sell all 82 of its copies at once.
The second case mentioned is about as strange as they come, the ultimate Catch-22. It deals with the value of Robert Rauschenberg's artwork Canyon. The IRS valued the work at $65 million, the heirs of art dealer Ileana Sonnabend at $0. Zero? Yes. Rauschenberg attached a few objects to his 1959 work of art, one of them being a stuffed bald eagle. However, a 1940 law made it illegal to sell a bald eagle, dead or alive. Rauschenberg had to supply the government with a statement at the time that the eagle had been shot and stuffed by one of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders before the law was passed. Unfortunately for the heirs, the work cannot legally be sold, meaning it could not be used to raise the $40 million (including penalties) the IRS demanded. Though artistically valuable, its market value, technically, is zero. Ultimately, the heirs gave the work to the Museum of Modern Art in exchange for the IRS dropping its demands (however, because of the zero market value, they did not obtain a charitable deduction for their tax returns either).
Among the topics covered in the conference are building a defensible report, preparing for deposition, trial and cross-examination, and avoiding common mistakes. There will be videos of actual trial testimony as well as mock trial exercises. Breakfasts and lunches will be provided both days for those hungry for more than just knowledge. There will also be a second conference on Personal Property Issues and Insights following the one on expert testimony, March 7-8. For more information or registering, you can visit the ASA website at www.appraisers.org/Events/asa-mini-conferences or call 800-272-8258.
We do not have much information on the activities in Malaysia other than the National Library of Malaysia is organizing a pair of conferences in 2014. From April 8-10 they will host the International Digital Library Conference, and from May 28 – July 28 the International Exhibition and Conference on Malay Manuscripts. The conference is part of a celebration called Visit Malaysia Year 2014. A nation that has managed to avoid most of the troubles in a troubled part of the world – Southeast Asia – while maintaining healthy economic growth, Malaysia hopes to lure more foreign visitors to their shores in 2014. The website for Visit Malaysia Year 2014 may be found at www.vmy2014.com