What is an art certificate of authenticity?

What is an art certificate of authenticity?

Being a professional artist nowadays requires much more than just creating good artwork. In today’s highly competitive art market, for one to be profitable, one must have a wealth of business skills that complement their artistic talent. For an artist to be taken seriously in the marketplace, they need a certificate of authenticity for all their works.

Certificates of authenticity have been around for as long as people have been buying and selling art. In the past, certificates of authenticity used to count as the only technique for determining the provenance of an artwork. Increasingly though, these certificates have come under fire in the last few decades.

Certificates of authenticity have always been part and parcel of the art market. Indeed, these certificates are usually required by galleries, exhibition houses, and collectors to confirm the provenance and hence the monetary value of a piece of art. These days, modern certificates can even be affixed using hologram technology. The hologram can be designed to feature a serial number so that it can be extremely easy to identify a piece of art.

While certificates of authenticity have become a lot easier to forge, they are still deemed necessary. However, it should be noted that on their own, certificates of authenticity do not count for much unless they have been backed by a warranty or financial history. When these two components are coupled with provenance and a comprehensive technical investigation, certificates of authenticity can make all the difference in the world to a buyer or a seller.

What exactly is a certificate of authenticity?

Certificates of authenticity can be found in nearly all industries, not just the art world. For instance, numerous luxury goods come with some type of authentication attached, especially if it is a well-recognized luxury label. In art, certificates of authenticity work in almost a similar fashion. A certificate of authenticity is created to accompany all artwork created and sold.

Certificates of authenticity are typically the first tool that galleries, exhibitionists, fairs, and collectors look at when determining an artwork’s provenance. Certificates of authenticity are especially important for higher profile artists whose works sell for millions of dollars. These certificates are essential as they serve as the fastest way to indicate that a person’s work is worth what they say it is and that it could appreciate a lot more money in the future.

Many small or beginner artists that have not yet built a reputation may think that obtaining a certificate of authenticity is not worth their time or effort, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Even when an artist is at the beginning stages of their career, certificates of authenticity are still important.

If your career takes off, a signed certificate will help collectors greatly when they are trying to trace the history of one of your pieces, which can also help to considerably increase the value of your work.

Be warned that even though a certificate of authenticity is supposed to help artists prove the authenticity of their work, numerous forgeries are floating around. That’s because certificates of authenticity are required by all art sellers, whether secondary or primary and are used by galleries, websites, auction houses, private sellers, collectors, and the artists themselves.

For a certificate of authenticity to be worth something, it must:

  • Originate from the artist who created the art. The artist who created the art must sign this certificate of authenticity.
  • The publisher of the art (especially where limited editions are concerned).
  • A dealer or agent of the artist (not a casual third-party dealer or reseller) that is confirmed and established.
  • A recognized expert that has mastered the artist’s life’s work.

A certificate of authenticity that is acquired from other sources, other than these four above, is in many cases questionable.

What should a genuine certificate of authenticity contain?

A genuine certificate of authenticity must contain particular descriptive details regarding the art in question, such as the medium of the work, whether it is a digital print, a sculpture, or a painting. The medium is an especially critical component not just for the identification of the work but also for its conservation in the future. For instance, if the artwork is a print, the type of ink or paint used, as well as the printing device used, should all be included in a certificate of authenticity.

Other basic components that are included in a certificate of authenticity include:

  • Name of the artist
  • The title or name of the artwork in question
  • The year the artwork in question was completed
  • The dimensions of the artwork
  • An attached photo of the artwork produced. A high-quality photograph can do a great deal to identify a piece should the certification of authentication should get lost or separated from the artwork.

Statement of authenticity

All the best certificates of authenticity come with a statement of authenticity that has been written by the artist or the creator. For a statement of authenticity to hold water, it should also contain copyright information. To match the statement of authenticity, there can also be a rubber stamp included in the certificate that will assist in authenticity and identification.

The location of completion

The location in which the artwork was completed also goes a long way in proving its provenance. You might also need to include information about whether or not the artwork is an original or a print. If the print is not a limited edition that can be reproduced, it is also important to list this information in the certificate of authenticity.

Additional details

If there is any further information that an individual should be aware of, it can also be included in the additional details section of the certificate of authenticity. This is a great point to add any extra information that might help the owner of a piece of work take care of it or offload it more efficiently. The artist’s contact information may also be required, especially because art is sold frequently online. Where relevant, the certificate of authentication should also contain additional details of any previous owners.

What else can be done to improve an artwork’s authenticity?

As well as the certificate of authenticity itself, several other tactics can be utilized to identify an artwork and improve its authenticity. Some things that you can do to make your certificate of authentication more impactful include:

Adding stickers to your work

Some artists tend to add a small sticker to the artwork. This small sticker will contain a summary of the most important points that are included in the certificate of authenticity. If the certificate of authenticity is unavailable for some reason or another, the sticker can be used for authentication purposes.

Ensure that the certificate is as high quality as possible

If you want to make the most out of your certificate of authentication, then you need to make sure that it is as high quality as possible. Try and pick the best printing material that will last as the certificate will likely exchange hands quite a few times. Thick paper works best for certificates as it is durable. When designing the certificate itself, try to keep the aesthetic of the piece in mind. Make sure that it matches the artwork’s aesthetic for the best overall results.

What happens if a certificate of authentication goes missing?

Sometimes, a certificate of authenticity may not be needed to prove the authenticity of a piece of work. Any valid receipt or official bill of sale can serve as proof of purchase from an artist or directly from a dealer or exhibition house. In some scenarios, an appraisal that has been acquired from a recognized authority in the field can also serve as a certificate of authenticity.

When a certificate of authenticity goes missing, only the opinion of a qualified expert on the art and the artists are permissible. Any other evaluations or offhand estimates of how much a piece would cost simply do not cut it here. That’s because you can never be too careful when it comes to the authenticity of artworks.

As mentioned earlier, some certificates of authenticity are useless as they are forgeries. Certificates of authenticity can also be quite difficult to track. Why is that? Certificates of authenticity can be notoriously hard to notarize and make official as there are currently no laws that govern who is and who is not qualified to create the certificates.

In the industry, there is also no accepted standard with respect to which type of information should be included in a certificate of authenticity. The trouble is that these days, almost anyone can access a COA template and use it to create a bogus certificate of authenticity. That’s why it is advised to always check all the information and documentation a seller claims to have before you spend any money on an artwork.

What should you do once you receive a certificate of authenticity?

Check it out

When you receive a certificate of authenticity, one of the first things that you should do is go through the document carefully. Make sure that you have read, understood, and confirmed all the details included in the certificate first before you proceed to purchase the artwork.

Confirm that everything is original

All COA must be original documents that have been hand-signed by the authenticator or the artist in question. These should never be photocopies as unscrupulous art dealers are known to doctor original certificates in various ways. As mentioned earlier, a genuine COA must completely describe the work of art that it is authenticating, including its size, medium, date, subject matter, and so on. When someone hands you a COA, there should be no doubt in your mind that you are investing in a high-quality piece.

Also, you will want to check that the contact details included by the signer are still up to date. If you notice that the information is no longer valid, ensure that you have contacted an expert on the artist for some much-needed assistance. If your certificate has been signed, but the signature is illegible, you might also experience problems trying to use it for resale purposes.

Where will a certificate of authenticity prove useful?

When buying art in a secondary market

If you are buying artwork in a secondary market, then you will definitely need a COA. Purchasing art in a secondary market means that you will be buying an art piece that has been owned by someone else previously, which means that it may not necessarily have a COA. In such an instance, a bill of sale or invoice from the previous owner or invoice will be highly essential.

When buying art in the secondary market, you will also need a fact sheet that will list in detail the provenance of the artwork. The provenance refers to the history of ownership of an art piece. A well-written fact sheet should include a list of all past owners, galleries, or museums in which the artwork has been exhibited in, as well as any mentions in the press.

When buying art in the primary art market

Any piece of art that has been sold by the artist or gallery in the primary market must have a COA attached. That’s because the work hasn’t been passed down from one owner to the next, which means that it should contain a COA that has been signed by the artist. A COA is essential not just for paintings but also for other genres, including sculpture, printed editions, and conceptual art.

Where an artist’s signature on the work is missing, a COA will help to confirm the work’s authenticity. As artworks move from the primary market to the secondary one, please know that the value of the work can change. Tracing the origin of the work is crucial to understanding just how much the value has changed over time.

Final thoughts

In a world full of fake art, the certificate of authenticity is one of the first things that art buyers often look at when they decide to invest in a piece of art. Some other techniques and tools can be utilized to determine the authenticity of a piece of artwork. However, none is as time-tested and tried as a good old COA.

As the industry continues to develop and newer technologies keep being developed, it is going to become a lot easier for sellers and buyers to track artworks and their provenance. Until then, if people are to keep using certificates of authenticity for their pieces, a better way of identifying the quality of a COA has to be devised. Rules governing the creation of COA must also be developed.

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