More with Heather Semple, Antiques Appraiser




PM: I'm curious. Did PNC make any good acquisitions of art?
H.S.: The bank did purchase several paintings for specific projects in newer buildings. We always worked with local artists, galleries and attended auctions. We installed local historical photographs in branches such as Homestead and Sewickley. The expansion of the corporate collection came through acquisitions of banks that were acquired in various markets during the '90s. These collections reflected those regions' and cities' individual histories and tastes. For example, Philly had Revolutionary War-theme pieces. New Jersey had nautical themes; Louisville had equestrian-themed works, etc.

PM: If PBS' popular program "Antiques Roadshow" were to come to Pittsburgh again, what sort of art would you expect to turn up in the homes of ordinary Pittsburghers?
H.S.: You would see magnificent treasures of paintings, prints, antique guns, jewelry and quilts.

PM: What about the serious collectors?
H.S.: I'm always astounded at how great the art is in private collections here. The art at PNC is hard to categorize, but Mellon Bank collected British watercolors. I love the Tiffany lamps that Mr. Hardy [the founder of 84 Lumber] has collected. There are a lot of private collections here that are not necessarily publicized, that are acquired quietly. I'm also amazed at how well people care for their art.

PM: What do you have to think about when caring for art in your home?
H.S.: Where the art is hung, how it is installed, what kind of lighting is used. Is it exposed to the sun? Is it over a fountain or the fireplace? Can someone damage it?

PM: What do you think of "Antiques Roadshow," the way it portrays your business?
H.S.: I am the first one to watch "Antiques Roadshow" on Monday evenings and believe it has created an appreciation and awareness for items and art found in our everyday lives. However, it can be both a blessing and a curse. What viewers don't realize is that there is a tape delay on the show. In reality, the experts on that show aren't coming up with evaluations in one minute. They and probably a team of assistants are researching the pieces and coming back four hours later with a P.O.V., or professional opinion of value. What's important to realize is that this P.O.V. is not the same thing as an appraisal. A P.O.V. is less formal. It is not a legal document that can hold up in court based on a great deal of research. It shouldn't be relied upon for an insurance evaluation or for tax purposes. The wording used on the show can be misleading: "If this were to sell at auction, it may fetch...." Viewers are led to think they will realize a certain amount of sale when it is contingent on many aspects of the market. It is not always a sure thing, but it sounds so fantastic on TV. I do a lot of research in libraries and in reference books. It's like a treasure hunt. I just spent an hour and a half in the Carnegie Library trying to decipher a signature on an engraving.

PM: What do you think about the notion of art as a commodity?
H.S.: It is a great thing. I think of art as investment that's interesting. But it's not a game.

PM: Can art backfire as an investment?
H.S.: Yes, art can be a bad investment. You need to be diligent as a collector. Beware the ambience of the gallery. People buy without researching the comparables, whether the artist has been well-represented. There are a couple of galleries in New York that I dread because I can't substantiate the value of what some people have paid for their pieces. And neither can the gallery.

Hot Reads

Review: One Thirty One East

Review: One Thirty One East

Located in the southwest suburban community of Carnegie, One Thirty One East embodies the area’s renaissance.
Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

The charismatic Maggie Meskey had tended bar for years before landing her gig at downtown bourbon haven Butcher and the Rye.
Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

PittGirl doesn't know why we say "warsh" — but she has figured out why we 'Burghers hit the brakes at the sight of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
13 Bartenders You Should Know

13 Bartenders You Should Know

Get acquainted with this group of charming bar professionals working in various establishments around the city.

The 412

Your Guide to Putting Together a Costume in Less Than 24 Hours

Your Guide to Putting Together a Costume in Less Than 24 Hours

Follow these steps to assemble your best Halloween getup yet.
Could ‘Green Light-Go’ Eliminate the Pittsburgh Left?

Could ‘Green Light-Go’ Eliminate the Pittsburgh Left?

The state-sponsored program looks to add $75 million in traffic-signal upgrades throughout the city.
Google Dedicates Today’s Doodle to Jonas Salk

Google Dedicates Today’s Doodle to Jonas Salk

See a tribute to the late scientist each time you go to look up something today.
TechShop Has Become a Hotbed for Local Businesses

TechShop Has Become a Hotbed for Local Businesses

The availability of key resources and support make this East Liberty shop a great place to launch an innovative independent business.

Hot Reads

Review: One Thirty One East

Review: One Thirty One East

Located in the southwest suburban community of Carnegie, One Thirty One East embodies the area’s renaissance.
Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

The charismatic Maggie Meskey had tended bar for years before landing her gig at downtown bourbon haven Butcher and the Rye.
Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

PittGirl doesn't know why we say "warsh" — but she has figured out why we 'Burghers hit the brakes at the sight of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
13 Bartenders You Should Know

13 Bartenders You Should Know

Get acquainted with this group of charming bar professionals working in various establishments around the city.
12 Hot New Restaurants

12 Hot New Restaurants

A diverse crop of eateries caught our attention this year, so we’re highlighting some of our favorites.
40 Under 40: 2014

40 Under 40: 2014

In their own ways, the 40 men and women we introduce here show us daily how we can ensure that Pittsburgh is deserving of its Most Livable City title.