ABOUT AUTHENTICATING ARTWORKS
Recently a client told us “I have 3 opinions that my painting is authentic. Is this enough or do I need more opinions for a big auction house to sell it”.
First of all, it is not a matter of how many opinions one has but most importantly, today, paintings are no longer authenticated on the basis of “opinions”.
This was the way it was done in the past. Some professor would give an opinion and the painting would be sold as authentic.
There's where painting authentication services comes handy, Tens of thousands of mistakes were made in the past. This is how we ended up with over 1,000 Rembrandts and why today we only have about 300.
This is how so many mistakes, errors, wrong attributions were made in building the big collections of the past, both in private collections and museum collections.
We are still having today to go over many of these authentications of the past and to re-attribute, re-assign, downgrade, the old authentications that were done on the basis of ”opinions”.
Today, art is no longer authenticated on the basis of opinions, but instead on the basis of research, references, analyses, provenance and forensics.
What the art market demands now is proof of authenticity, evidence of authenticity, demonstration of authenticity. Not “opinions”.
Technology has improved and so have the analytical methods. Authentications must now be performed proceeding systematically and rigorously. The evidence must be documented, recorded, accumulated and presented coherently in an unbiased scholarly type of authentication study.
It is common for records to be located in several countries because artists moved in their lifetimes and because the art they produced has been increasingly sold and moved to different countries particularly in the past 100 years. Even for artists who spent their entire life in the same country it is common to find a large number of works in various countries.
For this reason, productive research requires the ability to go to archives and art libraries in multiple locations. Art Experts is not an office where we all come to work from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. We are a network of specialists located in 17 countries, speaking 15 languages, with instant access to the largest archives, art libraries and museums in the world.
The World Wide Web is a fabulous source of information but at the time of this writing it contains less than 1 percent of human knowledge. This leaves out a little over 99 percent that has to be discovered and saved the old fashion way, by consulting old and antique books, vintage periodicals, old catalogues, archives, personal papers, manuscripts, letters, journals, unpublished theses, official administrative and legal documents, vintage photographs and unpublished films. This is what we do in the 17 countries where we have researchers.
While forensics and technology are of immense help in authenticating it would be a mistake to believe that a work of art can be authenticated just through analysis of the materials it is made of. Painting and drawing used to be popular hobbies in the 1800s for example. In addition to the tens of thousands of professional artists there were hundreds of thousands of Sunday painters. This means that it takes more than pigments and canvas that existed when an artist was alive, for a particular painting to be his work. This is why research is so crucial.
- Research in archives generally requires to be accredited with the institution where the archives are located to be granted research time.
- Biographical research
- Documentary research
- Historical art research
- Documentary research
- Provenence research is quite special as it means investigating who were each and everyone of the previous owners of the art and documenting their ownership. The idea behind authenticating on the basis of the art’s provenance is that if we know where the art has been every step of the way, starting with the artist, continuing with everyone who has owned it, and until today’s owner and if every ownership is documented and there are no missing time periods, then the art can only be authentic. It is currently a popular authentication method because it also provides a complete history of where the art has been and who has owned it during its entire history. In practice we are rarely able to reconstruct a complete provenance if there have been more than 5 owners.
Another improvement from the past is that it is no longer necessary to always examine paintings in person, physically. We do it when it is necessary of course, and we travel to every State, every Canadian Province and worldwide to do so. Some of the situations that do require examinations in person are Old Master paintings and paintings that have been extensively restored or are in poor condition. For paintings that are more recent and in good condition we work perfectly from high resolution and large size photographs. Of course, if you are located in a city where we have a specialist such as New York, Miami, Los Angeles, London, Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Florence, etc. it is easy to arrange for an examination of your painting or other artwork.
While we do handle a large number of simple authentications our set up and resources are particularly well suited to solve the most difficult authentications and we have successfully cracked a surprising number of extremely complicated cases.
The value of art is so high that everyone needs to be certain it is authentic. Even simple sketches or prints by well known artists cost at least thousands of Dollars or Euros.
For sellers, a solid authentication is what makes it possible to sell the art for its absolute highest price.
For buyers, the authentication is the guarantee that what they are buying is really worth what they are paying for it.
For intermediaries, like auctioneers and art galleries, a solid authentication is what will protect them from costly and embarrassing lawsuits.
Painting Authentications are also required for tax-deductible donations, the valuation and distribution of estates, divorces and dissolution of partnerships.
We have been authenticating for 19 years and have never made a mistake.
We would be happy to authenticate your artwork.