A Renaissance of Provenance

Last week, I met with a gallerist who recalled that “nobody was interested in documenting artworks in the 80’s – it was almost a dirty thing for gallerists to do”.


I imagined the process of collecting to have resembled a form of immaculate conception, whereby artworks appeared from a break in the clouds and no one questioned where they came from or why – They just ‘were’ due to some kind of divine intervention.


Surprisingly, this narrative hasn’t really changed in 30 years. Today, the majority of artworks sold are done so on a handshake that is, at best, chased by an electronic bill of sale. And, it’s not uncommon that collectors spend large sums purchasing works on the second-hand market that lack documentation in the form of either a certificate of authenticity or complete record of provenance.


That the Art World is built on a foundation of trust is a good thing in theory, but can be flawed in practice. We need only to look at statistics that estimate up to 50% of the artworks circulating in today’s art market to be either forged or mis-attributed to understand the magnitude of this problem.


Ensuring that artworks entering today’s market are properly verified is a collective responsibility, with clear benefits for artists, gallerists, collectors and institutions. It’s not about trust (or lack there of) but a respect for the provenance of artworks, their creators and the emotional and financial investments made by the collectors and institutions who acquire them. It’s simply nice to know what you are buying.


Authentication can be done at great expense by a room full of experts 200 years after an artist has died, or artworks can be verified at source, before they are released into the wild. This is one cornerstone of our business – To secure artworks with a digital record that protects authorship, ownership and provenance.  


If you are interested in learning more, feel free to contact us to discuss how Nfinitymark can support and sustain your gallery, business or artistic practice.

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