How to Authenticate Art

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Within the art market, a trio of tools are used to verify whether an artwork is authentic: provenance, technical analysis, and connoisseurship.

Provenance: is the history of ownership of an artwork, documenting its journey from the artist’s studio to the present owner. This is compiled through the cross-referencing of all documentation – including invoices, inventory lists, and exhibition catalogues – relevant to the artwork.

Technical analysis: refers to the scientific investigation of the physical qualities of the artwork. This can involve the testing of the artworks by a conservator to identify the specific materials used and their general age.

Connoisseurship: is the educated opinion of an art world expert as to an artwork’s authenticity based off of their understanding of and familiarity with an artist’s work, style and technique.

In the case of many historical artists, the combination of these three approaches is used to compile a catalogue raisonné, which is a comprehensive, illustrated, and annotated catalogue of all known artworks by an artist. This is sometimes divided into a particular time-period or medium (material) of an artist’s practice. Some artists have associated Estates, Foundations or Authentication Boards that will use the listed tools to decide an artwork’s authenticity, and will provide accompanying documentation stating their decision. For example, the Henry Moore Foundation will authenticate any new works that don’t feature in Henry Moore’s catalogue raisonné. Similarly, Banksy has an authentication board called Pest Control, which provide Certificates of Authenticity for his work.

Authentication at Mintus

At Mintus, we scrupulously consider the provenance and, where applicable, the catalogue raisonné of all our offerings, taking into account any additional documentation in order to confirm an artwork’s authenticity. Similarly, we contact relevant authentication boards when applicable. The experience of the in-house team, spanning gallery and auction house environments, ensures the best industry practices are followed during every step of the authentication process.

This is overseen by the extensive experience of our advisory board, which includes ex-Christie’s Chairman and Head of Post-war and Contemporary Art, Brett Gorvy.

If you have any further questions about how Mintus authenticates its artworks, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at [email protected]

*Image: Picasso Ingres: Face to Face, National Gallery, London.

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