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No Paddle Necessary 

Picasso, Chagall, Rembrandt and more at Brown's Gallery

Works by some of the biggest names in art are being shown in Boise, and you won't have to pay a museum admission fee or visit an auction house to view them. During the month of January, Brown's Gallery is displaying a private collection of works by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Joan Miro, Kathe Kollwitz, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, and to add a little 17th century flavor to this enticing mix of modern artists, Rembrandt van Rijn. As gallery owner Randall Brown puts it, "These are works by some of the founders of what people consider to be art today."

The opportunity to see signed limited edition prints from so many widely acclaimed artists would typically only come from large galleries in large cities.

But right now, you can visit Brown's Gallery and see a classic Rembrandt portrait hanging next to the bold black lines and bright angles of color for which Miro is so famous. Or for the truly rare and unique, the collection contains an original ink on caribou skin drawing by George Ahgupuk, a well-known Inuit artist.

The collection belongs "Sheila," whose children reside in Boise and wish for the family name to remain anonymous. Sheila is an avid art collector, and when she moved from Alaska to Boise to be closer to her family, she decided it was time to downsize and sell some of her unique collection.

For Sheila, Brown seemed the most logical Boisean to call. He is a member of the well-respected Appraiser's Association of America. He studied appraising at New York University before joining forces with his mother to run Brown's Gallery in Boise and has a keen sense of what it takes to assess the value of a work of art.

As it turns out, Sheila's instinct to contact Brown was right on the money, literally.

Brown sent out an invitation to everyone on his mailing list, expecting people to show up for a typical evening of First Thursday fanfare, but when he arrived to open the gallery at 10 a.m., breakfast in hand, there were people lined up outside the gallery door.

"My breakfast went into the refrigerator, and it's still sitting there," Brown said with a laugh the following afternoon.

All but three of the prints sold at the exhibition's opening, but most of them will stay on display through the end of the month. Brown couldn't be more pleased.

"In the 40 years we have been open, we have never had a turnout like this," he said.

People flew in from Seattle, Spokane and Sun Valley to have the chance to buy something from the collection, but as it turns out, Boiseans were the most enthusiastic viewers.

"A lot of sales went to local people who were just thrilled to see this caliber of work in Boise," Brown said.

Thanks to Sheila, locals took first pick of a collection that would otherwise be in New York, waiting to be auctioned off by Christie's auction house, a course of action Sheila didn't think was best and one Brown agrees with.

Brown said that although the initial quote from an auction house may sound like a good offer, it may not be the case.

"They make it sound like they'll make you a great deal when you tell them what you have," he said. "But once you ship it out there, they will charge you to photograph it, store it and then take the seller's premium on top of that."

Brown also warns that the original quote may not hold up.

Say, for example you have a limited edition signed Joan Miro print like the one in Brown's show. This piece was last appraised at $10,000. Beautiful as it is, many people would likely be tempted to sell it with a price tag like that.

Brown lays out a scenario that, if true, would dishearten many newcomers to art sales. You contact Christie's and send them photographs of the print. They are interested, and give you an estimated starting bid comparable to the appraisal and ask you to send the piece, via priority insured mail, to New York. You will be paying for shipping and insurance.

Once the piece arrives, the appraiser may decide the quality is not up to par with the auction house's standards and will want to clean it or make repairs. Then they will photograph and store it until the auction date, all of which the seller might pay for. And they may still lower the starting bid further.

The price point for art in Boise is still reasonably low compared to larger cities, so when Brown priced the work, he looked at the lowest and highest price that prints like Sheila's have sold for at auction. He then priced them at the mean value or a little below.

In other words, the sixth edition Picasso print in Brown's Gallery was sold to some lucky individual for as little as half the current market value.

One of the biggest concerns people have when viewing prints is that the edition is not an authentic print made by the artist. There are many posthumous prints out there, which are not as valuable as, for example, those signed and numbered by the artist.

The prints considered the most valuable will have an edition number and will almost always be signed by the artist. All the prints at Brown's are signed and the edition numbers are low, which adds significantly to their value.

Brown's belief that "the definition of art is anything well done" shows in his gallery. From the obscure to the well-established, Brown's Gallery displays artists from Boise and all over the Northwest. The eclectic collection of art that typically graces the gallery walls makes it clear that Brown has a wide-ranging appreciation for art.

Perhaps it is fitting, then, that this impressive collection should be sold in his gallery instead of being shipped off to the bidding wars of the auction houses.

Brown's Gallery, 1022 W. Main St., 208-342-6661 BrownsGallery.com. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

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