Real or Forgery? Telling the Difference is a Fine Art

Appraising fine art is an art itself, and can prove to be one of the most daunting—albeit, intriguing—categories in property insurance.  And while an authentic art work can be worth millions of dollars, a well-duplicated forgery is worthless in comparison, so the risk of making a costly error looms large. As this month’s edition of Claims Magazine presents, it takes expert discernment to be absolutely certain of the authenticity of fine art.

When it comes to authenticating an oil painting, there are several factors to look out for—signatures, artistic styles and abilities, hand-painted versus machine-made, canvases, and provenance. The most reliable method is identifying the signature, which can be ascertained by referencing books and periodicals that contain the artist’s signature. One can also examine the artist’s style and ability and compare it to other paintings by the same artist. In a forgery there are subtle differences—such as a detailed line that is rendered blurry—that can identify a potential fraud.

Another method is eyeing the canvas. With original paintings one can see and feel the texture of the paint and the overlapping colors used. By contrast, even with high quality inkjet printers used to make giclée copies, appraisers can discover under close examination the dot matrix pattern used.

Finally, the painting’s provenance—the documentation that confirms a work of art’s authenticity—is a useful method to use. A gallery label, a signed certificate of authenticity, an artistic statement discussing the piece, receipts, an expert appraisal, or a history of ownership, leaves no doubt that an art piece is genuine. There are times when even the documents themselves can be forgeries, but a reputable appraisal company will check to ensure their veracity.

By contrast, original prints are produced by the artist or a professional assistant for the purpose of creating a limited number of images. When an artist makes prints, each one is created from a plate and is technically considered a unique work of art even though it is produced in multiples, known as an “edition.” After obtaining the print’s edition number, appraisers usually look to catalogs to confirm the numbers match the known number. Edition numbers are not an absolute indication of authenticity, although it is an important first step in the process.

When checking for the authenticity of a print, an artist’s signature should be noted on it. If the print only has the plate signature, chances are it’s a reproduction print. Another thing to look for are discernible plate marks and impressions which should be visible around the image. Taking a look under the frame may be necessary for proper examination.

Purchasing a valued work of art can be a risky endeavor. At Kompani Risk & Insurance Solutions, Inc. we are happy to assist our valued clients in managing and planning for all types of risk, including property insurance. To discuss how we can help protect your assets, please contact our CEO R. Glenn Matsen directly on his personal extension at 916-306-5902. With us you’ll experience the exceptional service and attention to detail that you can only find with an independent insurance agency.