26 May 2008

Authenticity and provenance

With mega bucks riding the art wave, one has to be extra cautious when buying art. The value of an artwork is unquestionably linked to the name of the artist. In the event that there is any doubt as to the origin of the artwork, or there is a cloud of uncertainty over who the artist might be, the artwork becomes a controversial piece. To substantiate its authenticity may then require an extensive and expensive process.
Every time an artwork exchanges hands it is important to keep a track of its provenance. Art galleries give out authenticity certificates when you buy an artwork, which basically lists out details regarding the artwork and caries relevant signatures to authenticate it. However, in the secondary market when you buy at an auction or from a dealer or even a private collector/investor apart from the authenticity certificate it helps to have a provenance or history of the artwork. This helps in further ensuring that a work is authentic and the investment you are making is sound.

One hears of instances where a painting was offered for sale but then the prospective buyer had doubts about its originality. Unsure whether it was a fake or an original, the buyer chose to opt out of the sale, which is a wise decision. Now that sales of works by Indian modern and even some contemporary artists involve lakhs to crores of rupees, it makes sense to be 100 percent sure about its authenticity. It also follows that one should buy art from only reputed sources, whether it is an art gallery, an auction house, an online dealer or an individual one must be certain of the seller’s credentials before deciding to buy the artwork. As a buyer you must keep all records of the transaction, which will then come in useful when you want to sell of the work.

(Published in Financial Times)

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