Brooke Lampley, vice chairwoman of the fine art division at Sotheby’s, on authenticity, appraisal and building lasting client relationships. Brooke Lampley doesn’t just advise art collectors, although she does plenty of that. Over the past decade, she has also helped them make purchase decisions: previously as vice president of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, and now as vice chairwoman of the fine art division at Sotheby’s. Lampley has moved paintings and sculptures that have collectively sold for more than $1 billion.

Not too shabby for someone who once thought she would end up in a sleepy museum doing curation.

There are surprising parallels between fine art sales and investing. The key question is always about valuation: How can we determine market prices for individual items that might not be especially liquid and come to market once every few decades? Auction processes can help set prices, as can buyers who specialize in specific art assets.

There are objective issues that affect the price of each item: rarity, authenticity and provenance, certainly. But other issues of valuation are clearly subjective: how sensuous, romantic, beautiful, lush or vivid a work might be. Such opinions often determine why one painting by an artist might sell for $750,000, while another from the same artist can sell for $7 million — or even $70 million.

Some of her favorite books are referenced here. Our conversation transcript is here. Read more