I recently contributed to an article on how to avoid art fraud in Town & Country. Here are a few more tips to avoid fraud if you are buying art from a living artist.
1. Meet the artist – getting to know an artist is a great way to learn about their technique and personality. If you have an opportunity to visit an artist studio, it’s not only a wonderful way to see how they create their work, but also gives you an idea of how serious they are focusing on their practice. Many artists have studios in Manhattan but as rents continue to rise, many have moved to the outer boroughs in emerging markets like Queens and Brooklyn. Most emerging artists have full and part-time jobs during the week, so make sure to set aside 2-3 hours for yourself on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Getting to know an artist in their studio space is also a great opportunity to develop a friendship, allowing you to follow their career if you decide to make a purchase.
2. Ask the artist to sign – nothing says authentic like an original signature. Once you decide to purchase a piece of art, request that the artist sign the reverse side of the painting in permanent black marker (on the reverse of the canvas). If you’re purchasing a photograph, it’s normal to ask the artist to sign and number the edition in pencil on the reverse, lower right-hand side of the photo.
3. Ask for an email receipt – once you decide to purchase the art, ask for an email confirmation of the purchase. Many artists don’t accept credit cards so if you’re paying by check, an email receipt is a great way to track the payment. However, many artists prefer to be paid in cash or Venmo, so if you are paying this way be sure to get an email invoice instead as your proof of purchase. Ensure that the following is included on the invoice receipt: name of the artist, title of work, year produced, dimensions, and if it’s unique or an edition. If it’s part of an edition, get the edition number confirmation.
4. Buy at auction – buying art at auction is a great place to find quality art that has traded in the past. While publicly traded art and artists help ensure the work is authentic, make sure to ask for the provenance (who owned the work in the past) and what gallery has represented the artist in both the past and present. If the artist has been represented by multiple galleries, ask your advisor to contact the gallery director to make sure the work being sold was produced by the artist in the year disclosed. If the work is part of an edition, make sure to verify the edition size by the gallery as well. When you begin bidding, set a dollar limit and stick to it. In a competitive bidding situation, it’s easy to let your emotions take over. Make sure you don’t overbid unless you really love the piece and don’t mind spending a little extra. If you are working with an art advisor, follow the same steps and ask for their expert advice.
5. Buy from a gallery – there are so many incredible galleries that represent quality artists. When you find art you want to buy, spend time with the gallery director or sales team to help educate you on the exhibition history and the scope of the artist’s work. Buying art from a reputable gallery may mean that you’re unable to negotiate a deep discount of the work. However, it provides an extra layer of vetting of an artist. Galleries look to work with artists who they believe fit within the needs of their own client base. When you speak with the gallery, ask them as many questions as you want such as: tell me about their education, exhibition history, upcoming exhibitions, past collectors, permanent collections and if they have sold publicly at auction. If you’re working with an art advisor, be sure you get all these answers so you have a clearer picture of this artist’s career.