Appraisal vs. Authentication

Understanding the difference between appraisal and authentication services

I will often get calls asking me to confirm the identify of an artist for a piece of artwork. With some exceptions, appraisers are NOT qualified to authenticate and will turn to recognized expert when in doubt about authenticity. The question becomes, what is an Appraisal vs. Authentication.

Lets begin with defining both terms.

Appraisal

Appraisal of personal property is meant to establish value for a given objective and follows the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). In many cases the appraiser will choose not to have a work authenticated. Instead will rely on readily apparent identity or on statements, documents, or records supplied by the client. Not to state the obvious but the identity of the artist is a critical element in establishing value for a work of art. Therefore, the appraiser must verify the authorship of a work when authenticity is in doubt. This is when an expert is brought-in to authenticate the piece.

Authentication

The authentication of a piece of artwork is based on one or more of the following:

  • Scholarly opinion – expert uses methods, subject matter, construction, style and elements within the artwork.
  • Forensic Analysis – testing, analysis of medium, identification of pigments, fiber sampling, carbon dating is conducted.
  • Factual Verification – someone who saw artist sign the work, obtained artwork directly from artist, worked with artist, authorized dealer such as a gallery or publisher all can be a witness to the artwork’s author.

The appraiser will often be tasked with finding the right authenticator but there are several ways that anyone can find the right expert:

  • Museums – contact museums with recent exhibits by the artist for the names of curators who are expert in the artists work.
  • Dealer or publishers – inquires to dealers or distributors who routinely handle the artist’s work or the work of similar artists.
  • Major auction houses – Contact the appropriate specialties for information on recognized experts specializing in specific artist.
  • Libraries – Most large libraries have excellent art reference departments and most librarians are happy to assist your research.

I hope this segment provided some insight between an Appraisal vs. Authentication Interested in learning more? Contact us and we will send you a list of questions you should ask an authenticator prior to hiring.

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