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Here a perfect example of how much easier is to fake provenance than the real thing
The title of this topic says everything.
Look at this example:
How awful! Never trust an old brownish label. By the way Giovanni, do you know what is considered as good provenance? I bought many items from respectable dealers and auction houses, but of course they don’t disclose their sources. Is that good provenance or does it have to come from an important collection?
In my opinion one should trust his eyes at first instance, but, if he is not competent, then he should trust a serious dealer or auction house.
The problem nowadays is that there are not so much serious dealers. For example, I thought that a certain dealer was serious, although not knowing her personally, only because she is well known. But since she became a Catawiki expert, I see how often she fails.
With the mayor auction houses it is not so different, almost all the old experts have gone and the new ones it seems that are only relying on provenance. A real shame. Who can guarantee that a wealthy collector was also an expert one? It means nothing to me, but today it become the gold rule.
I rather asked in respect to selling than buying. Will auction houses reject items if they are authentic but don’t come from a famous collection? Or is it ok to have bought from respectable dealers and the like? Not that I think of selling, it’s just a general question I sometimes wonder about.
it depends. If you think to sell at not well known auction houses, then it is easy, they take everything, including fake, because they know nothing. But in that case the risk of selling a good item at the lower estimate is very high.
At the major auction houses, you can only sell really high grade items, clearly genuine. But provenance there is important. Without provenance, the item must be a really good one.
Normally, they will tell you that the item is not eligible for their lower estimate, which is 10,000 dollars. But then you can see, at the auction, that they are listing items at 2,000 dollars. What that means? I suppose that they do not apply the same rules to everybody. I think that important customers have a special treatment.
I have direct experiences (not a single one, many) that the treatment is not the same for everybody.
The issue with the major auction rooms is a conundrum.
I agree with Giovanni posts. It certainly is not an even playing field. But the question beckons. Why?
The likes of Sotheby's/other receive thousands of potential listing daily/weekly. Most just receive the complimentary rejection stated by Giovanni. Does this mean your item is not worthy? No it does not. Just not suitable at the time.
So why do you see items less than 10k? The answer in my opinion is very simple. If you are a known client either buyer or seller you will receive preferential treatment. You are a known client, either way.
I recently purchased a Yuan/Ming jade plaque from wyssemaria art (Xin). He sent pictures to Sotheby's who sent him the customary rejection email etc. Does this mean the plaque is fake. No it does not. Just not suitable ATM with the other thousands of potential entrants at the time.
Just to be clear. I sent pics of the same plaque to Sotheby's (Australia) asking if they were interested etc. Being a known client, they replied to me saying yes. If I was not know to them, I bet they would have said not at this time etc.
Generally, provenance is a good thing to have, if it is genuine. Too many 2nd tier sellers use the term like from a 'old German collector/collection' which really means nothing and is not really provenance at all. Just a statement!
I suppose in the end it is a good strategy to establish some sort of relationship with the majors. At times IMO you can get some decent deals with them .I know I have in more recent times. Namely the Wang Yeting plaque I bought from Sotheby's Australia. Said plaque was wrongly estimated by way of size. It was in fact much larger.
They sold it to me not as being definitely known said work by artist. Just probable, bearing said signature etc with no provenance. Now it has provenance!!!
Another, is the He Xuren plaque that is currently under discussion via another thread. It sold today at Sotheby's NY for $4200 against an estimate of $6-8k.
IMO this plaque was a really good buy, given it was sold as a genuine work by said artist. Similar works have sold for well in excess of 20k.
Thanks Giovanni and Mark for your interesting answers. Now I know why good or medium auction houses also sell items of lower value. I just browsed the summer catalogue of Van Ham, where I bought some good things years ago. There were many nice export porcelain pieces at the end of the price range, often bundled in 4 or 5, that sold for hilariously little money compared to what you pay at Ebay. (Which indicates you shouldn’t exaggerate collecting these simple Kangxi bowls and Qianlong plates, as charming as they may be.)
Dear Birgit and all -
I would totally concur with both Giovanni and Mark's insightful comments and would only add the following:- sometimes, to secure the most desirable and high quality pieces, the auction houses - both major and minor - will agree to take complete collections, even if this means offering pieces well below there set lower estimate, or even taking some objects which may not be genuine/correct - although 'knowledge' regarding such objects within some of the auction houses is somewhat questionable these days ...
Another point is that the auction houses, at all levels, are competing strongly against each other to secure these pieces so deals, on both sides, are often done ...
If a piece is acquired from, or has previously passed through, a respected, well known dealer, and authentic documentation is provided, this adds to its provenance. If previously exhibited and/or published - with proven evidence - this can add greatly to its value. But this is all much dependent on the object it self - and the collectors and/or markets desirability for such ...
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