Thursday, August 2, 2012

Authentication and the Art Market

Art fraud is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Consequently, authenticity, the degree to which an art work can be said to have been indisputably created by an artist, is a key aspect of value and of vital interest to both appraisers and collectors.

At a recent seminar in Los Angeles, attorney Christine Steiner of Sheppard Mulllin and Debra Burchett-Lere, Director of the Sam Francis Foundation, reported on the evolving legal ramifications for authenticating artwork. In recent years, a number of high profile court cases have addressed the liability of sellers, buyers, auction houses, independent experts and artist's foundations when it comes to authenticating works of art. These cases illustrate the challenges of authenticating works of art which have included disagreements among recognized experts, the sophistication of art forgery techniques, as well as differing authentication standards in the United States and other countries. Other complicating factors in determining the authenticity is the absence of catalogue raisonnés and other comprehensive documentation on an artist's works.

Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946–1994
Edited by Debra Burchett-Lere with featured essay by William C. Agee
(Photo courtesy the Sam Francis Foundation, California)

Because of the increasingly litigious environment in the art world, and the high costs of defending opinions of authenticity, it is becoming more difficult to get artist's foundations, authentication boards and independent experts to render opinions. One high-profile example is the Andy Warhol Foundation which recently announced that it is disbanding its authentication board. Other artist's foundations are reviewing their liability in the event of disputes over the authenticity of specific works. These cases are impacting the creation of catalogue raisonnés, the authoritative catalogues that document an artist's production of works over a lifetime. Consequently, provenance, the history of ownership of an artwork, is more important than ever as an element of authenticity.

The American Society of Appraisers states that appraisers witness, identify and value, but do not authenticate. However, appraisers frequently must take into consideration the authenticity of artworks as part of the appraisal process. This is done through the careful physical inspection of the artwork, consultation with experts or the artists themselves, research of published material such as catalogue raisonnés, and in some cases, scientific testing. It is often necessary for appraisers to examine works outside the frame in order to look for key markers of attribution including signatures, watermarks, edition number, and titles. Discrepancies between the art work and documentation on the artist and their known works that raise questions about the authenticity of a given work must be discussed in the appraisal report.

What should collectors do?

Purchase art from reputable sources and request warranties of authenticity. A warranty, as opposed to a certificate, should offer the buyer protection and recourse if the work is discovered not to be authentic at a later date.

When purchasing a work of art seek information on the provenance, the prior history of ownership of the work.

Maintain all documents relating to the acquisition of a work of art, such as sales receipts, as well as provenance.

If a work of art is reframed retain all information that may be affixed to the prior frame or enclosure such as gallery stamps and stickers, written notes, custom's stamps, etc...

If you own a work by an artist who is represented by a foundation, it may be beneficial to inquire if the work can be registered, particularly if the foundation is documenting the artist's work in a single or multiple catalogue raisonnés. The Sam Francis Foundation, for example, offers the owners of Francis works the opportunity to register the work and to obtain a Documentation Data Sheet with information on the creation and history of the work.

For additional information go to

China Guardian Advance Into Hong Kong Art Market –

See this recent blog on China Guardian's incursion into what has hitherto been Sotheby's, Christies' and Bonham's domain!

China Guardian Advance Into Hong Kong Art Market –

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Antique Ivory Sales Banned in California, Consignments Seized

Recent raids by the California Department of Fish and Game over the sale of ivory in California is causing confusion for would-be sellers of all sorts of antique objects and works of art.

Take a look at the link below:

Maine Antique Digest - Antique Ivory Sales Banned in California, Consignments Seized

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

TOP 3 Artprice 2011

TOP 3 Artprice 2011: Having emerged as the world's strongest art marketplace last year, it comes as no surprise to find China's two leading artists now holding the top two places in Artprice's global ranking of artists by auction

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi top earners in global auction sales.

Of course, right after I submit my article on the Chinese art market to the Journal of Appraisal Studies, comes out with the latest stats. on China's place in the global art market. In my article I quoted Thierry Ehrman, the founder of, as saying that in 2010 China accounted for 33% of global fine art sales displacing the U.S. and U.K. and France for the first time since sales had been recorded. I also cited Artprice's 2010 Top-10 list of artists by auction revenue which included Qi Baishi and Zhang Daqian. At the time Pablo Picasso stood at number 1 and Qi Baishi was number 2. Well, it's 2012 and Artprice has come out with new stats for 2011. Time to revise again. China is still number 1 in total revenue for fine art but its market share has increased to 39% (from 33% in 2010). The US is number 2 with 25% of the market (down from 30% in 2010). Pablo Picasso has been displaced by Zhang Daqian as the top auction earner ($507 million) followed by Qi Baishi ($445 million). Picasso is now ranked fourth (311.6 million). Bloomberg News quotes Larry Warsh, a NY based collector, as saying it's not a big surprise, given China's abundance of cash and rich history of collecting. Also cited as underlying its rapid ascent in the global art marketplace is the nationalist sentiments of Chinese collectors who have their own artist heroes. Well, yeah, but there is more to these sky-high prices than conspicuous consumption and nationalistic fervor...There is market speculation by art investment funds, property flipping, rampant non-payment by Chinese buyers of some of the highest-priced properties, price-ramping and the false attribution of art by Chinese auction houses. The question remains: The Chinese Art Market: Sustainable Growth or Bust??