Sam Francis

Untitled, 1984

106.7 X 73 inch

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Are You Buying the Real Thing? Authenticity, Provenance and the Art Dealer's Checklist

Are You Buying the Real Thing? Authenticity, Provenance and the Art Dealer's Checklist

By Andrew Bay, UK


The expansion of digital networks and the high-speed advances of the e-commerce market economy have brought dramatic changes in consumer buying habits over the last 20 years. It is safe to say that today, online platforms are the preferred environment for most consumers to conduct financial transactions. This shift has been particularly evident in the context of the art world, where an increasing number of predominantly young art collectors, have seamlessly established the online world as their trading platform of choice, to sell and buy art. This has been, to a great extent, made possible by the momentous migration of art galleries and organisations to the online space. An ever-expanding number of sites have made it possible for potential buyers, to effortlessly survey and discover new artworks, produced all across the world, on their computers, from the comfort of their own homes. 

Buying paintings or any other works of art on the Internet can be a transparent and enriching activity, but certain key factors must be taken into account to make sure this can be done safely and without any unpleasant surprises. The main precautionary steps to take would be to ensure that the website you're buying the artwork from is legitimate and that the work is authentic. Buying art online can be a very beneficial endeavour, if the necessary safety measures are put in place.

Art trading and investing are rapidly becoming more and more accessible, particularly with the remarkable growth of online art galleries. Most collectors and buyers feel that their relationship to art is similar to a love affair. Seeing a great piece that speaks to you, is just a very special moment. You feel compelled to find out more works from a particular artist or movement, and online networks open an infinite number of options to explore, from all across the globe. Social media platforms also greatly amplify the accessibility of art, considerably facilitating online purchases in the process, and making it incredibly easy to collect, buy and sell art digitally.

Any concerns you may have before completing a transaction to buy an artwork, must be addressed at once. A trustworthy online gallery should have a dedicated customer service team which should be able to answer any queries you may have. Composition Gallery is one of the most esteemed and trusted online art galleries in the industry, and we can provide any specifications you may require, about any of our listed artworks. We can also offer independent advice about all items for sale, for all our original artists. You can easily send us a message at the following contact details and we will be able to answer any particular questions you may have about pricing, purchasing, shipment or consignment. All the items in our collections are signed by the original artist, and they all have a certificate of authenticity (COA). The certificates are signed by the artists, the artists' lawful representatives, or the gallery itself; these certificates are legal documents which confirm the authenticity of the works. They are usually sent to the buyer once the artwork has been delivered.

Authentication is one of the most compelling fields of expertise in the art world. Whichever work of art may be under scrutiny, it must conform to very strict requirements to be validated as "authentic." Experts will assess if the piece is an original copy, if it may have been modified in any way, shape or form, if there may have been unscrupulous attempts to improve a defective artifact. Authenticity is the very essence of the artwork. It should encapsulate the intensity of the artist's inspiration. Authentication is the best method we have to verify that the originality of the work is properly documented and protected. 

At Composition Gallery, we feel that authenticity is an essential part of our philosophy. As a gallery, we have built long-lasting relationships over the course of many years, with great artists, galleries, art dealers, curators, and art foundations. Our catalogues and collections are based on connoisseurship and scholarly concurrency. As an online art buyer Or seller, it is essential that you should be in a position to be able to verify the authenticity of the works you're acquiring and if their pricing is legitimately determined.  

Irrespective of the reasons that may have led you to decide to buy or sell a piece of art, the authenticity of the artifact should always be kept in mind and cross-examined. The best way to do so is to ensure that relevant and conclusive documentation is provided with the artwork. This is the best practice to trace the piece back to its source and place of origin, and therefore ensure that it was unquestionably produced by the artist. 

Certificates of authenticity (COAs) are the most commonly used tool to determine the provenance of a work. Curators, gallery dealers, and art scholars also often have the required competence to correctly evaluate an artwork's authenticity. 

Industry experts usually rely on two main concepts, to establish the authenticity of an artwork: its Fair Market Value, and its Replacement Value. The former is the price which sellers and buyers use as a reference point. The latter usually represents the estimated insurance value of the work. To summarise this brief survey, we can conclude that the value of a work of art, is directly correlated to our ability to confirm its authenticity. The uniqueness of the work, establishes what its monetary value is. The art world is not controlled by a central authority, and therefore cannot be strictly regulated. The onus is therefore on the buyers and sellers, to carefully monitor who they are transacting with. An art dealer who directly represents an artist, is always a good place to start negotiations from, as there can be no doubt concerning the origin of the work in that particular case. 

Finally, it may be fitting for buyers and sellers to be aware that the authority of certificates of authenticity has been increasingly challenged in the industry, over the last decade. Besides requesting them, it is also advisable nowadays, to demand that documented research be provided to confirm the origin of the works, as well as making use of tracking technologies, to scientifically establish the historical validity of the artwork under consideration.

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