Treasure: Print by noted sculptor hard to appraise
“I met David as a student at San Jose State University in the late 1970s,” Bruce Kennedy wrote in an email to the column about his 12-by-16-inch screen print by artist David Middlebrook. Along with the piece named “A Free Mark,” and signed in pencil, Kennedy sent photos of set of offset litho prints the artist did for Visual Dialog Magazine. “He is famous for his sculpture more than prints, so I am hoping it might be unique enough to look into, especially the fact that he is a Michigan kid.”
Richard Fedorowicz, a DuMouchelles’ appraiser, took a look at an event held recently at the downtown gallery and auction house. He found more information about the artist on the website of the Triton Musum of Art in Santa Clara, California, which concentrates on Bay Area artists and hosted an exhibition of the artist’s work in 2010.
“David Middlebrook is an artist who traces his roots to ceramics and has evolved to become a professional sculptor specializing in site-specific work, public and private commissions and smaller sculptural elements,” explains the museum’s website. “Over the last 20 years, David Middlebrook has evolved as an artist and become a master of materials. His work today involves a broad range of stone, marble and bronze and dimensions from 50 pounds to 50 tons. He has established himself as a specialist in large scale site-specific work.”
Kennedy told the appraiser that the artist was originally from Jackson and that he received the prints as a gift for helping him with his Los Gatos studio. He retired from the university in 2010.
Fedorowicz said that even though the artist is recognized, Kennedy’s piece is atypical. “This traditionally isn’t what people want from this artist,” he explained. “Its value would depend on demand.”
The appraiser searched auction databases but was unable to find comparables, which is key to giving an accurate appraisal. “There are also two David Middlebrooks, which can get confusing,” Fedorowicz said. And while Middlebrook is well known in sculptural circles, “notoriety doesn’t always translate into what happens at auction. People want works that are representative of an artist’s style, not atypical. They wouldn’t be as interested in prints as in a piece of sculpture.”
For that reason, the appraiser had a hard time putting a dollar value on the print. “This has some sentimental value since you knew him,” he told Kennedy. “I’d keep it and see what happens.” He also recommended that Kennedy get back in touch with the artist, who is still working in California and has a website (davidmiddlebrookartworks.com).
“I don’t think there would be a lot of interest in this at this point, but that doesn’t mean things can’t change.”
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About this item
Item: David Middlebrook prints
Owned by: Bruce Kennedy
Estimated value: Unknown
Appraised by: Richard Fedorowicz, DuMouchelles