When it comes to art appraisal, consult the expert!

January 18th, 2022

A painting may often appear too good to be true… and that is often the case. The art world is littered with forgeries, copies and anomalies so where there is a credible expert for any painter it is always worth checking with them as to the authenticity of a painting – but here is where the problems often begin rather than end…

Trustworthy art appraisal can be more involved than you think. Experts are a mixed bunch; some are very approachable and easy to work with whilst others are harder to track down and more difficult to communicate with. Some charge exorbitant fees relative to the value of a painting whilst others offer their services for free, or at a reasonable cost in relation to the value of a painting.

Some will charge whether the painting turns out to be genuine or not whilst others will charge only on the basis of an affirmative confirmation of a work. So, when buying a painting that’s sold unequivocally as by a certain artist it’s always worth ascertaining a few key criteria:

  1. Does the work come with a certificate or confirmation of a works authenticity from a credible expert on the painter?
  2. Is there a credible expert for the painter and if not does the painting have enough provenance to buy in good faith?
  3. What does the expert charge for art appraisal and what are the terms of engagement of any expertise requested?
  4. Is there a guarantee from the seller that they will refund you if the work is deemed not to be by the artist stated after expertise has been carried out?

Art appraisal

A few interesting anecdotes from our own experience – no names are mentioned for obvious reasons…

Some years ago, we purchased an impressionist painting by a highly noted painter of the time. The work had good gallery provenance from the early 20th century, so we were confident in the purchase. Comfort was also given by our own experience and knowledge of the painter. We sent the work to the accredited expert on the artist who happened to be a family descendant. The charge for expertise was very reasonable BUT there was one caveat… should the work be deemed a fake the family member wanted the ability to destroy the painting! The result was positive, but the risk was high as a significant amount of money was at stake… an exercise not for the feint hearted.

More recently we purchased a work for a substantial sum at auction in the United States. The painting was, and is, in our opinion a genuine work by the painter. Despite extensive provenance from one of America’s leading dealers of the 20th century in impressionist art and an ownership history that included important political figures in American history… the expert said NO. We consulted her prior to paying for the work and this saved us considerable problems. Despite the fact we and others believe the work to be genuine if the expert disagrees then the work cannot be sold in good faith.

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