Over half of collectors are afraid to buy a fake. Why trust is key at every level of art trade, from the artist to the collector, and back to the artist.
Not everyone is as lucky as the buyer of Banksy’s Girl with Balloon that shredded itself during the auction to become Love is in the Bin, the “first time a piece of live performance art had been sold at auction”, Sotheby’s reports. Yet, it means somehow some verifications failed, and the shredder couldn’t be found before the sale took place. How to make sure the artwork is real, authentic or doesn’t hide a surprise?
Don’t accept paperwork from someone who’s already dead
Certificates of Authenticity usually authenticate artwork, and several sources can provide it. In the case of purchasing old paintings, the right thing is to get a couple of experts to testify the value of the work. The curator Jason Colchin-Carter advises referring to the catalogue raisonné, which is a comprehensive listing of all the known artworks by an artist and “never accept paperwork from someone who’s already dead, like a certificate of authenticity from a specialist you can no longer refer to if needed.”
Authenticated by the artist himself
For contemporary artists, the artist himself has to testify the authenticity of his/her work with a COA. This document eases the transaction process by assuring the buyer that the work is genuine and aids in the prevention of counterfeit. It acts as a sales receipt, and therefore should always be found alongside the work when reselling. Is it enough? Tagsmart CIO and founder Steve Cooke, explains how else you can get verification: “DNA tags allow an artwork to be identifiable and uncopiable, and that’s what we’re applying to the 23 000 artworks we hold.”
Why it matters for the artist as well
If the certification matters for the collector or retailer, it matters for the artist as well. What happens in the secondary market, when the artwork is potentially sold several times or simply online where it’s so tricky to track the origin? Marine Tanguy, from MTArt Agency spotted the breach “all our certificates of authenticity are trackable digitally – in order to protect art collectors and artists - but it enables the claim of resale rights on secondary market sales. Very few contemporary artists ever get to benefit from these, and we want this to change.”
Throughout the process, trust and verification give peace of mind to all curators, collectors and artists to be willing to buy or sell art online, knowing that the lack of transparency is yet the main stumbling block holding the online art market back