Provenance of artworks plays major role in determining price

Source - Economic Times.

KOLKATA: Provenance of artworks plays a major role in determining the price that a piece of painting or sculpture will achieve at the auctions.This is being proven at sales by auction houses, especially at overseas centres. It is being seen quite often that works of art with a sound provenance are touching handsome price levels.

"The Indian art scene, especially the auction scenario, is following the Western model to a large extent. While the artworks may be authenticated by a reputed critic or some other authority, we may not have given sufficient importance to the provenance of the work. This is something that is emphasised in a major way internationally. A work is often traced from its inception to when it arrives at an auction sale.

An artwork’s profile is recorded with as much accuracy as possible before it goes under the hammer. This is not to demean a critic or art authority, but a mere authentication certificate can sometimes be inaccurate. But, the provenance of a work is a solid rating. This is tremendously relevant because it has direct relation to the price of the work," art specialist Prakash Kejariwal told ET.

In an email to ET, Ms Maithili Parekh, deputy director of Sotheby’s London said, "The provenance of a work of art is extremely important. Along with quality, size, artist, year, it is one of the factors that could impact the value of a work. The Sotheby’s Indian Art auction in May 2008 in London offered two very important works by Rabindranath Tagore titled Bird and Death Scene. Both of them came from the collection of WG Archer and M Archer.

The Archers purchased these from the artist back in 1932 in Santiniketan. The works have since been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, India House, Whitechapel Art Gallery, UK among other prestigious locations. This history associated with the works and their collecting lineage all form a part of the provenance, making them more desirable for collectors."

According to Mr Kejariwal, auctioneers and gallery owners should consider attaching increased importance to the provenance of artworks.

"Sometimes, works are challenged and withdrawn because their authenticity comes under doubt. Such things can be ironed out virtually entirely if the provenance is tracked to a sufficient degree. Older India masterpieces, whose provenance has been adequately assessed overseas, get far higher prices at auctions abroad than they would in India," he observed.
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