Maybe eleven Volvos are equal to one Rolls Royce Silver Coud, but is a work by John Singer Sargent equal to a Claude Monet? Such is the problem in dividing up well-heeled estates like that of Christopher Larson and Julia Calhoun. According to the Seattle Times, the biggest challenge in the recent divorce was dividing up the $102 million art collection. The couple failed at the task, so it landed in the hands of the court. According to the article, “The result became a study in how people measure the value of art, and which counts for more — pragmatism or sentiment.”
Read on… Perhaps the easiest way to call it even would have been to sell everything and split the proceeds. But the economics of art worked against that. For fine art, any gain in value from purchase to sale is taxed at 28 percent, more than for most assets. Then there’s the cut taken by dealers and auction houses. And then there was the fear, voiced in one court filing, that the couple owned “so much 19th Century American artwork” that selling it all would saturate the market, driving down prices.
You can find the details in the article, but know that in the end Calhoun’s 19 paintings averaged $3,082 of appraised value per square inch and Larson’s 24 paintings came in at $1,942 per square inch. Charming.
Image: Mid nineteenth-century depiction of Josephine fainting after being told by Napoleon he will decree a divorce (to seek a male heir and royal alliance).