One of the biggest problems facing collectors and Dealers in the Art World is the increasing incidences of fakes and forgeries. What do you do to protect your interests when you are buying an expensive work of art considering this problem?
Very often works by the artists we deal in have a “Catalogue Raisonee”, This is a work of scholarship which seeks to detail all the known authentic works by the artist. Generally when dealing with graphic works this is sufficient for purpose and is widely accepted by most dealers and collectors in the genre establishing authenticity. Typically such a work will go into detail stating the edition size, type of paper used, measurements, signature employed, edition number, printer and publisher together with perhaps some historical narrative. Some catalogues, of course, are more detailed and better illustrated then others. When we sell a work to a client we generally describe the piece compressively giving detailed literary references all of which enhance the clients confidence not just in the scholarship involved but in the “due diligence” we have undertaken to ensure that the work presented is correct and proper to our description.
Very often a purchaser asks for the provenance of a work as part of the “due diligence’ in establishing authenticity. This is not always made available because generally Art Dealers, like many professionals dealing in high value collectables, want to keep their valued sources secret. This is not always a problem and often it can be obviated by providing earlier auction or collector records.
Certificates of Authenticity
There is much controversy as to what exactly is a certificate of authenticity and what legal weight surrounds it. As mentioned above we tend not to offer such a document when selling graphic works because we will have, an an early stage in the selling process, have provided details of the catalogue raisonee and literary sources. If a client requested such a document we will generally provide one. However the truth is that this has little or no real value. The true value is to be found in the sales invoice which is governed by the Sale of Goods Act under which dealers are obliged by law to provide works as described on their invoice.
To authenticate not well documented Original Works (other then prints) can be a considerable problem. If a work is not in a catalogue raisonee it by no means proves it is a fake - merely that was unrecorded at the time of the publication of that work. In America and Europe museums no longer authenticate works of art or provide expert opinions. It is the prevalence of lawsuits against those providing such opinions which has effectively put a stop to this practice. This trend is extending throughout the world making it increasingly difficult to establish authenticity of newly discovered works of art.
An industry has evolved by which acceptance of certain experts opinions will confer definite authenticity which will be universally accepted. These opinions might be from the artist him/herself, a learned individual or academic, an Art Gallery or Dealer whose experience in handling similar works is great, a Foundation or, in some cases, a near relative of the deceased artist. In common practice amongst dealers such an expertise is known as “The voice of God” and once the relevant documentation has been achieved no-one can gainsay the authenticity of the work.
The documentation provided by the various parties referred to above can be sporadic and minimal or extensive and scholarly. Generally it will take the form of a photo certificate signed/stamped by the issuing party. A description of the work is necessary and sometimes an archive number is provided in order that it can be more easily double checked in later years.
Obtaining certification can be an extremely tricky, expensive and time consuming job. Some authenticating parties oblige you to sign a document stating that in the event of the piece being adjudicated a fake they have the right to destroy it! This procedure is certainly adopted by the Comite Chagall and the Miro organisation ADOM. As to whether such strictures are in the public interest our not is hard to say. On the one had it does discourage faking of works of art. On the other hand it perhaps discourages works newly discovered from seeing the light of day or proper scholarship. The jury stays out on this question. Some bodies charge considerable sums for their labours and others charge nothing at all. One thing is, however, certain: a work which is properly certified is of considerably greater financial value and marketability then one which is not.
Here follows a short list of some major European artists who are the unique authenticators. These change from time to time and up to date research is always needed. Caveat Emptor! The penalty for having got the wrong certificate can be a high one.
Boudin: Mr. Schmit
Campigli: Archivio Campigli, Prof. Nicola Campigli
Cezanne: Mr. Reff
Cocteau: Madame Annie Guedras
Dali: Mr. Nicholas Descharnes
Degas: Mr. Brame & Mr. Lorenceau
Fontana: Fondazione Lucio Fontana
Foujita: Mrs. Sylvie Buisson
Gauguin : Wildenstein Foundation
Kandinsky : Mrs. Vivian Barnett
Leger: Comite Leger
Malevitch : Mr. Andrei Nakov
Magritte:Mr. Isy Brachot
Matisse : Mrs. Wanda de Guebriant
Millet: Mr. Aubry or Mr. Lorenceau
Miro: ADOM (Association pour la defence de l’oeuvre to Joan Miro)
Modigliani: Mr. Christian Parisot
Monet: Wildenstein Foundation
Morisot: Mr. Yves Rouart
Nolde: Mr. Martin Urban
Picabia : Mrs. Olga Picabia/Comite Picabia
Pascin: Mr. Abel Rambert
Picasso: Mrs. Maya and Mr Claude Picasso
Pissarro: Dr Joachim Pissarro
Poliakoff: Archives Serge Poliakoff
Seurat : Mr. Philippe Brame
Viera da Silva: Mr. Jaeger
Sisley : Wildenstein Foundation
Toulouse-Lautrec: Mr. Brame
Turner: Mr. Martin Butlin
Utrillo: Mr. Fabris & Mr. Petrides
Valtat: Mr. Louis Andre Valtat
Van Dongen: Mr. Belier
Van Gogh: Comite Van Gogh
Obtaining certification can be an expensive difficult and hazardous process involving scientific tests, careful detective work and meticulous research. Sometimes we buy works without certification and obtain the necessary documents. This troublesome process adds considerable value once it has been successfully accomplished.