The Importance of Provenance in the Future of Art Collecting and Investment

The Importance of Provenance in the Future of Art Collecting and Investment

In the intricate dance of art collecting and investment, the role of provenance stands as a pivotal and often underappreciated player. "The Importance of Provenance in the Future of Art Collecting and Investment" delves into this multifaceted world, guided by the expertise of Angelina Giovani-Agha, Co-Founder of Flynn & Giovani Art Provenance Research and Director of the Art Market Academy.

This essay illuminates the critical importance of provenance in validating authenticity, enhancing value, and mitigating risk in art transactions. Through a series of insightful questions and answers, we explore how provenance influences decisions on using art as collateral, the tools available for independent provenance research, and the impact of market standards on the art-for-investment trend.

Our journey through these discussions aims to unravel the complexities and underscore the significance of provenance in the evolving landscape of art collection and investment, providing a comprehensive understanding of its role in both current practices and future developments.

Table of Contents

  1. Key issues facing the art market with respect to provenance
  2. What tools are available for collectors to independently research their collections
  3. How market standards contribute to the trend of investing
  4. Conclusion

Could you elaborate on the key issues facing the art market with respect to provenance?

For a long time, the art world operated on a handshake. If you had forged a relationship with a particular dealer, art expert, or connoisseur, you would take their word that something is a good investment or a valuable addition to one’s collection. Nowadays, a handshake deal is not sufficient to establish good faith. Necessary due diligence and paperwork are required to support actions taken in good faith. Issues around authenticity and provenance have become more crucial than ever because, sadly, we live in a time where collecting for investment often trumps collecting purely for aesthetic pleasure. With that in mind, it is paramount to ensure that your investment is secure and will not be compromised by future title claims or questionable authenticity.

What tools are available for collectors to independently research their collections? How user-friendly are these tools?

Online databases are essential knowledge for everyone who works with artworks. Databases like the Getty, the Jeu de Paume database, Lostart.de, and many others are the cornerstone of due diligence checks. Most of these databases are free and can be easily accessed and navigated by everyone. Earlier this year, I put together two online courses that focus exclusively on provenance research. One introduces the discipline and provides the historical context for its development and the other is a hands-on, how-to course that presents methodologies, sources, and tools available, real-life case studies, and can train you to look for red flags and identify potential risks. You can review the syllabus at: www.artmarketacademy.com

You mentioned that the market standards are lenient, could you elaborate on that? How do market standards contribute to this trend of investing over appreciating art for its intrinsic value?

The sad truth is that even at the biggest auction houses globally, you can still buy items with absolutely no provenance. It should be completely unacceptable to offer works for sale that have provenance gaps of hundreds of years. Buyers need to be a lot more demanding from their advisors and insist on seeing evidence that enough research has been undertaken to guarantee a low-risk transaction. Evidence of having asked the right questions is an essential part of having acted in good faith. Unless there is an agreed-upon market standard, we can never be sure what enough due diligence actually looks like. Collectors might find themselves in the position of not being able to sell back items they have purchased from the traditional art market over the past years in good faith if in the meantime the provenance and the authenticity were not solid enough and can now come under scrutiny.

Conclusion

We underscore the indispensable role of provenance in art collecting and investment, highlighting its impact on validating authenticity, enhancing value, and reducing transactional risks. It brings to light the challenges in the art market, notably the shift from informal agreements to essential due diligence and accurate documentation. The discussion also touches on the significance of accessible tools for independent provenance research and critiques the current market standards that often prioritize investment value over artistic merit. In summary, the piece advocates for a more informed, ethical approach to art collection and investment, emphasizing the central role of provenance in maintaining the integrity and cultural significance of art.

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