As with any item of value, authenticity is a significant part of the process for collectors. Letters of Provenance confirm this authenticity and leaves no doubt about the genuineness of the artwork. Solid provenance almost always increases the value and desirability of artworks because it provides authenticity, and history of ownership. For example, works owned by established, respected collectors tend to see increases in value.
Online art auctions have shown that there are security risks in identifying credible letters of provenance. But there are ways to ensure that you have the real deal.
It is important to always see the provenance upfront before you bid or buy an artwork. It should describe the work being sold, containing information about the dimensions, medium, date of creation, title, and other relevant details. Without this information, you can assume the provenance is not credible. Letters of Provenance are hand-signed, hand-stamped or marked by hand, regardless of whether it’s digitally printed or not. It’s also important to ensure that full names and contact information of previous owners to avoid any potential disputes over ownership, as well as that of the auction house or seller, and the artist. Keep in mind, value appraisals may or may not be a substitute for Provenance.
The significance of proper diligence, including investigating the provenance of an artwork, cannot be overemphasized. The value of art transactions in the secondary market continues to grow and securing the correct documentation will prevent potential fraud issues in the future. Though all this paperwork does take some of the romance associated with art purchasing!