What is Provenance (and Why Does It Matter)?


A striking piece of artwork catches your eye as you browse a local antique store. When you ask for more information, the owner rehearses a story of how it was purchased by her great uncle at an auction halfway around the world. He was told that it was an original van Gogh, but when you ask for paperwork, you’re told there isn’t any. While the thought of owning a piece of art history tempts you to shoot for the stars, the price tag keeps your feet planted firmly on the ground. If only you knew whether it was authentic, you might be willing to make the investment. But if the story you’ve been told is just a story, then it will be less of an investment and more of a waste.

So, what do you do?

You need provenance.

But What is Provenance?

Provenance is a well-known term within the art world that refers to the origins and history of a particular piece of artwork. The term comes from a French word, provenir, meaning ‘to come from’ and it’s proven and authenticated by a wide variety of documentation, from certificates of authenticity to sales receipts and even letters referencing the art in question. When you have reliable provenance, you’ve got the records you need to draw a clear line from the art’s creation to the present day. You know its creator, its owners and history, and it’s appraisal value.

Provenance empowers collectors to purchase artwork with full knowledge about what they’re getting. And it’s absolutely essential before you ever make a major purchase.

So, why is provenance so important for collectors?

Why Provenance Matters…

Quality artwork doesn’t come cheap. It’s a major investment that requires a significant amount of due diligence if you want it to pay off long-term. This is why becoming familiar with the idea of provenance is essential for every art collector. Before you make a purchase, you need to see the documentation that proves your art has the history its seller claims.

A piece of art’s provenance can drastically impact its value and price. Without proper, reliable provenance, you’ll likely pay more than you should. And you may even end up with a forgery or fake. But when you have proof of an artwork’s history and value, you’ll be better equipped to make wise purchasing decisions.

How Regestra is Changing the Face of Provenance

Up until now, proving provenance relied almost exclusively on documents such as…

· Letters of Authenticity

· Gallery or Exhibition Stickers

· Signed Statements from the Artist Describing the Artwork

· Original and Subsequent Sales Receipts

· Film or Photograph of the Artist with the Artwork

· Appraisal from an Expert on the Artist

· Verified, Traceable List of Prior Owners

· And Similar Documents…

But Regestra hopes to change the face of provenance, making the whole process easier for artists and collectors. With Regestra, artists will be able to register their artwork using a secure, reliable digital ledger that will ensure ownership and sales details are always accessible to potential buyers and other interested parties. Checking the provenance of a piece of artwork will be as simple as conducting an online search.

Let’s build a safer more secure art market. #artforeveryone

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