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How do you divide artwork in a divorce?

On Behalf of | May 23, 2022 | Divorce |

You and your spouse collected art for many years during your marriage. You both enjoyed collecting new artists’ work and going to art auctions to see what you could buy.

Now, your collection, you believe, is worth several million dollars.

When your spouse told you that they wanted to get a divorce, you realized that the artwork would need to be divided, too. How, though, can you do it in a fair way?

Appraisals come first for artwork in divorces

The very first thing you and your spouse need to do is find one or more appraisers to look at the artwork and assign values to the pieces. You can select a single appraiser if you can agree on one, or you can choose two and then go with the lowest value, highest value or the average of them both.

Remember that an appraisal is just a guideline, though. Since it’s hard to guarantee that art will sell for its appraised value, you and your spouse may want to consider putting the artwork up for sale if you don’t want to keep it. Then, you’d be able to divide the profits between yourselves rather than trying to “guess” at the price the work will sell for in the future.

Not ready to sell? Try alternating your choices

If you aren’t ready to sell the artwork, consider alternating the selection of pieces as you divide your property. Since you’ll know the assigned values, you can say, for example, that one of you will get pieces valued at up to $1 million and the other will get pieces valued up to $1.5 million (or whatever your agreement is). Then, select pieces one by one, alternating, until you divide all your property.

Alternatively, you could keep certain artwork in groupings. For instance, all work by one artist could go together.

There are many ways to divide your artwork, so it’s worth trying to discuss the way that would make the most sense. Some people will divide artwork based on what they like or the overall value—it’s up to you, your spouse and your attorneys to work out a solution for your divorce.