Shadow Box Attributed to Joseph Cornell
Appraised Value: $100 - $150,000 (2013)
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:56)
GUEST: It was an object that I've had since the '70s. It was my father's. He found it in the trash. I don't know exactly the details, but I know it was in Long Beach, California. He showed it to us and the amazing thing about it was that I was in New York City and I went to a museum and I saw something similar to this on display. It just was like, "Whoa, what is this?" So, I've had this ever since.
APPRAISER: So you don't remember what the name of the artist was?
GUEST: No, I tried to do some research on it. I did go to one art dealer one time. He just thought it was annoying because the sand was coming out.
APPRAISER: He thought it was a box with sand in it. Does the name Joseph Cornell ring a bell? Joseph Cornell was an artist born in 1903. He lived in New York, he was a surrealist and a constructivist. He believed in constructivism, which is this Russian movement which believed in severe lines and very severe, kind of austere spaces. And he also loved the lively fantasy of surrealism. So you combine those two-- this austerity with the fantasy-- you come up with this...
GUEST: It's very modern.
APPRAISER: Modern, right. Joseph Cornell lived from about 1927 until 1972, his death, in this house-- I mean leaving very rarely-- with his mom. And he created these boxes as well as films and some collages. And he has become very, very famous for them. He would take regular, everyday objects-- broken dolls, broken pieces of china, starfish, and put them in these cases, put glass over them. And this is a world that he went to that he couldn't go to in real life.
GUEST: Kind of a recluse?
APPRAISER: A recluse. He had shows outside of New York. In fact, he actually had a show in L.A. It was at the Ferus Gallery in 1962. You never know, but maybe that's the way that this box came out here. He believed in symbolism, so that these objects-- you see this cue ball which might be a planet, it might not.
GUEST: Right, that's a cue ball!
APPRAISER: What might it be to you, though?
GUEST: Planets. I really did feel like I was looking at the solar system or...
APPRAISER: You've got the stars.
APPRAISER: When you look at the paint, it has a nice craquelure on the surface, which is a good thing because it shows its age. And we feel that it's probably from the 1950s. Now, we don't have a signed piece, you know, as you know.
GUEST: Yeah, I saw no signature or anything on this.
APPRAISER: They're often signed on the back in unusual ways or they have paper covering them and the signature's on the paper. There's just nothing here to go by. The catalogue raisonné, which is a collection of his works, is being put together right now, and the important thing to do is to get this looked at by those catalogue raisonné people. It has to be examined and determined whether or not it is by Joseph Cornell. I just have a gut feeling...
GUEST: That it's one of his?
APPRAISER: That it's a positive. So, are you curious about the price?
GUEST: Yeah, but we're not definite that it's his.
APPRAISER: Right, if it can be authenticated as being Joseph Cornell, this little box would be placed at auction with an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
GUEST: $100,000 to $150,000. Oh, my God. Wow. (laughing) Oh, that's amazing. Well, that... that touches my heart because that's from my dad.
APPRAISER: If it can't be authenticated, I would say the value would be under $100.
APPRAISER: You have to be sure and get that catalogue raisonné person to look at it, and then it's going to have value through... to the moon.
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