3 Jul 2007

Importance of certification in art

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Fakes and forged artworks have existed for a long time now but as the Indian art market rakes in mega bucks, the stakes are that much higher. There is a greater influx of fakes, forged signatures and fraudulent practices seen in the market. One of the ways to avoid buying a fake is to obtain a letter of authenticity from the seller. This method although not foolproof does offer some safeguards. In fact, when buying art, knowing about the artist, and the background of the artwork can give an indication to its authenticity.

A provenance certificate is a letter of authenticity that should contain -
* A digital scaled down image of the artwork, and details of the art piece such as the title, name of the artist, medium and size.
* It can also include date of the artwork and details on its origin.
* It should have a signature from the gallery representative and also of the artist whenever possible

Some galleries will give this document by default while at other places you have to ask for it. It is the responsibility of the art gallery or dealer to sell an original artwork and therefore they should take adequate steps to authenticate it even before it appears before the buyer. Unfortunately, that may be difficult at times, especially when the artist is no more and one of his works appears in the market. Authenticating an artwork is an expensive and tedious process and it is always better to buy an artwork one is completely sure of. By that reasoning it is also essential one buys from a reputed art dealer or gallery. Riding the art boom are several self appointed experts and middlemen who might be willing to offer rates lower than the existing market rates but then unless it is a genuine artwork that they can substantiate with adequate documents it is not worth it.

Measures such as registering an artwork at a central agency and tagging artworks with authentication proofs are also making news and may soon be adopted more widely.

(Published in Financial Times, Bangalore)

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