Chapter 1: Notion of “sleeper”
Upon consignment, an in-house specialist or external expert appraises each lot in order to generate a description for the sale catalogue. In appraising an art object, the expert identifies its attributes, namely its creator or the respective place of origin or discovery, the date or period of creation and provenance. The final result of that assessment is expressed in the art object’s attribution. When a sleeper is offered at auction, the expert has failed to correctly determine the valuable attribution of the art object. As a result, the art object is sold for a considerably underestimated price. For the purposes of this study, a sleeper is defined as an artwork or antique that has been undervalued and mislabelled due to an expert’s oversight and consequently is undersold at auction. The auction house’s misattribution is printed in the sale catalogue as well as displayed on its website, communicated to potential clients and to those attending the sale. Accordingly, the art object is introduced into the public art market under a wrong label.