Buying an art can be a fun and rewarding experience. If you are looking into buying your first piece of art or starting an art collection, either as a long-term investment or for other reasons such as your love and appreciation of art, there are plenty of things you need to consider and be aware of before you purchase a work of art online or at a gallery, or before you go raising your bidding paddle at auctions. In this interview, Mr. Vadim Blaustein, partner at BlauStein Business Lawyers, a resident of Monaco and an experienced lawyer dealing with various kinds of transactions, answers the common questions that aspiring art collectors often ask when embarking on an art journey. How can you make sure the artwork is authentic? Vadim Blaustein: A Certificate of Authenticity created by the artist or expert help collectors prove the authenticity of a work of art as well as its quality. An authentic artwork is also usually accompanied by provenance and statement of attribution. A valid receipt or proof of purchase either directly from the artist or from a confirmed and established dealer is also sufficient to prove that the artwork is authentic. It is therefore advisable to contact the person that signed the COA or whoever is mentioned in the COA in order to confirm its validity. What does authentication and attribution mean? Vadim Blaustein: Authentication is a process of proving that the work of art is genuine, while an attribution is an assessment of whom to ascribe a particular work of art. Such assessment is carried on by a qualified expert or authority on a particular artist. How do I know if a Certificate of Authenticity is genuine? Vadim Blaustein: A genuine Certificate of Authenticity (COA) contains specific descriptive details about the art, the name of the artist, the art’s exact title or subject matter, name of previous owners (when relevant), or other resources that contain either specific or related information about the artwork or the artist. All COAs must be original documents, hand-signed either by authenticators or the artist himself. Is there a way to spot fake signatures? Vadim Blaustein: Inspecting, assessing and analyzing signatures are not easy tasks, especially if you are not an experienced dealer, collector or fine art professional. Nevertheless, there are a number of ways for you to spot fake signatures, such as by familiarizing yourself with the stylistic elements of the signature and knowing where the artist typically signs and how the name is signed. You also need to note how well a signature blends with the composition of the art and the overall appearance of the signature. If you are buying online, make sure you can get a good clear detailed enlargement of the signature. What is a provenance? How do you verify it? Vadim Blaustein: Provenance is the documentation that accompanies the art, and which confirms its authenticity. Provenance can take a variety of forms. It can be a signed certificate from a widely recognized and respected authority or expert, a statement from the artist himself, an original receipt from the gallery or receipt from the artist, or even newspaper or magazine articles mentioning the art. There are many ways to verify the validity of provenance, such as checking whether it contains the most important information describing the work of art, whether the documentation is hand-signed, hand-stamped or marked by hand, getting full names and contact information
for all galleries or auction houses if the work of art is said to be previously owned by a gallery or auction house, and many others. If you have doubts about the validity of the provenance of a work of art, it is advisable to contact an independent expert, dealer, or appraiser before you purchase or bid. How are prices decided? Can they be negotiated? Vadim Blaustein: Prices are usually determined by the exhibition and selling histories of an artist, along with his career level and the size of artwork. Gallerists, collectors and curators are also important driving factors that influence the value of an artist’s work of art. Negotiating prices is definitely possible. There are galleries where you can negotiate a discount or discuss a payment plan. It is also important to remember to ask about additional costs to avoid any surprises. How do you know whether an asking price is fair? Vadim Blaustein: First step is to ask the seller himself as to how they set the price and what they base it on. It is also important to do your own research. For example, see how much similar art is selling for or has sold for already at galleries, auction, secondary market websites, and directly from the artists. You can also contact other sellers and find out how much the art is selling for. It is important that you make price comparisons. What are the advantages to having your art professionally appraised? Vadim Blaustein: Art appraisers and advisors are capable of determining fair market values regardless of the circumstances and can provide you with the most up-to-date accurate price information available. If you are planning to sell a work of art you inherited or owned for years, have your art appraised to know what your art is really worth, so you do not end up selling your art way too cheaply. Is art a good financial investment? Vadim Blaustein: An art can be a good long-term investment as you may see a significant increase in the value of the work in the future, for example the famous Amedeo Modigliani's 1917-18 painting, Nu Couché (sur le côté gauche) was sold at an auction for $26,887,500 in 2003 and then 12 years later it was sold for $170.4 million. If you are looking into buying art as an investment, it is also good to consider diversification, for instance from fine art into decorative art. Are there ways to recognize quality artworks? Vadim Blaustein: Learning how to evaluate quality in art requires you to educate yourself about the artists, by reading about them and speaking with dealers or galleries who buy, sell or specialize in it. It is important that you take every possible opportunity to speak with knowledgeable individuals who have experience evaluating artworks. Why do collectors often prefer artists' earlier works? Vadim Blaustein: Earlier artworks tend to be more energized, inspired, passionate and exploratory, especially when the artists are younger and less experienced as they are still trying to find their own styles. With the passage of time, some artists do less experimentation and settle into a system of producing the same kind of artwork as they come to understand exactly what they have to produce to satisfy their collector bases. This is why early works tend to be more collectible than later ones, especially those works done in styles for which artists eventually became well-known.
What is a late work? Is it worth bidding on? Vadim Blaustein: A late work refers to a work of art created or completed toward the end of an artist’s career. Whether or not a particular piece of art is worth buying or bidding on largely depends on the artist. The key is to understand the life, art and the career of the artist who made the artwork. A late work of a well-known artist does not automatically mean that the art is valuable. Is it a good idea to invest in younger or emerging artists? Vadim Blaustein: Investing in emerging artists is comparable to investing in startups. It comes with risks, but the potential for profit can be promising. You must keep in mind, though, that most young artists may have promising starts to their careers, but that also may eventually cool down or fade away completely. Is it a good idea to buy art at auction? Vadim Blaustein: Bidding and buying at auction require you to be knowledgeable about the artists you bid on, have understanding of item descriptions, know how to determine your maximum bid, how to evaluate condition, when to request additional images or information, and more. Thus, make sure you really know what you are doing before you bid and buy at auction. How about buying an artwork online? Vadim Blaustein: Buying art online is generally safe as long as you are buying from reputable established sources and you know what you are doing. Unfortunately, there are numerous forged or misrepresented works of art offered online. Therefore, you may want to take it slow if you are just starting to find your way around. What should I know about insuring art? Vadim Blaustein: Procedures for insuring art vary from one insurance company to another. Generally speaking, valuable works of art are itemized individually, and certain companies often require appraisals on more expensive art before they insure them. Make sure your insurance company has knowledge and experience with insuring art. It is also important to familiarize yourself about their claims process. How do you care for artwork? Vadim Blaustein: In general, you need to keep all art out of direct sunlight and avoid temperature and humidity extremes. Art galleries or the artist can provide you with specifics or additional guidelines on how to care for and maintain it. In case of damage, do not try to fix or repair it on your own. You should contact professional convertors to restore it for you.
How can you protect your art from theft or burglary? Vadim Blaustein: There are effective and affordable alarm systems that you can purchase for 24-hour surveillance and protection of your work of art. Most of the alarm systems nowadays come with wireless modules allowing you to monitor your artwork anytime and anywhere, as long as you have remote access to your alarm system. Thank you very much for participating in this interview. Your time and willingness to share your insights are greatly appreciated.
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