Provenance vs Certificate of Authenticity

10th August 2017 2 minutes read

Provenance is the history of an object. Provenance includes the auction houses, dealers, or galleries that have sold an item, the private or institutional collections in which the item has been held, and exhibitions where the item has been displayed.

Many galleries offer a “certificate of authenticity”, this is really only a confirmation of their invoice, it doesn’t add to the history of a piece & could actually detract from a more historical documentation. It may appear comforting to a new or inexperienced buyer but should be treated with caution. Provenance documentation can prove that the current owner has a clear title for the item that can legally be passed to the buyer upon purchase. At White Court Art we do not offer certificates,  and strive to offer only pieces that have a genuine history. Many of the paintings & works we offer come directly from the studio of the artist or from the artists direct family by descent. We work very closely, sometimes exclusively, with contemporary artists and offer only pieces that we know come from that source.

Owning a painting or object d’art can be a costly investment and at White Court Art we give as much information as possible to our clients and always try to provide them with as comprehensive a history as possible to help them make their purchase decision. However, important as provenance is because of the nature of art it isn’t always within a dealers scope to be able to provide a seamless history for your work. We have many years of experience that has enabled us to develop “an eye” for works that we offer and have established our client base through honesty and trust.

Be cautious about claims regarding the provenance of an item that cannot be proven. Verbal history can be interesting, but there should also be old photographs of the item in the family collection, bills of sale, and other documentation that can prove the statements are true. Cliche though it is, if a work seems too good to be true it probably is!

In a nutshell “caveat emptor”; buy from reliable sources, do some research, ask questions and make your purchase with confidence from a trusted company.

Richard Veal