Posts Tagged ‘provenance


The Importance of Provenance at Art Auctions

The value of artwork is often determined by a number of factors, including what collections it has been part of, where it has been shown, and how many times it has been sold. Art auctions are often considered to be the most transparent marketplace in the art world for the simple fact that they value items according to history and provenance. They also publish sales results, usually alongside the pre-sale estimates, that helps both dealers and collectors understand how particular artists perform at market.

The Basics of Provenance

Typically, an art piece’s provenance will include key factors in that work’s history. This both contributes to the price valuation of the piece and helps to authenticate it as a legitimate work by the artist. Collectors may look for pieces that have been at auction before, as this will typically mean that several appraisals of the piece and its provenance have already been done.

Art auctions at reputable houses will collect related materials such as certificates of authenticity, exhibition catalogue material, and receipts for previous sales. The supporting information for the provenance is itself deemed to be authentic, and the piece’s history can then be tracked.

The Guarantee

The point of collecting a piece’s provenance is to guarantee future buyers that the piece is legitimate and authentic. Ideally, this helps auction houses price their objects and removes the chance for any future disputes and liability.

Problems of Provenance

While art auctions will typically seek to disclose as much information about a piece for sale as possible, often it is impossible to know the full history of a piece. Sometimes past owners wish to keep their possession or liquidation of a piece a secret. Other times, wrong information can be presented such as incorrectly including work in shows.

Particularly with older pieces that have been sold and resold countless times, a clear timeline of ownership and exhibition is typically impossible. However, the provenance of a piece can still be relatively understood based on where the piece has traveled, and through examination of related documents like museum exhibition catalogs. If there is doubt of the piece’s authenticity, it will typically be listed as “attributed to” the artist.


Tip for Auction: Adding authenticity by saving boxes and paperwork

Jeff Lee, Photographer:

If you have original boxes or paperwork to accompany your property it can add a nice touch to the overall look of a photograph.  It can enhance the set up as well as add a validity and sense of authenticity to the image.

Jeff Lee, Photographer

Jeff Lee, Photographer