Who Can Issue A Certificate Of Authenticity?
Art Is My Career | 16th June 2023
Whether you are an artist, art collector or gallery owner, you will understand the importance of authenticating artwork. The authenticity and provenance of a piece of art can have a huge effect on its financial value and desirability to collectors. Aubrey Catrone, an art authenticator writing for Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, says:
“Proof of authenticity is vital to determine an artwork’s performance on the art market…If an artwork is unable to meet these requirements, a valuation specialist should adjust their opinion of value accordingly.”
A certificate of authenticity, issued by the appropriate entity, is a reliable way to establish whether an artwork is genuine. In this article, we will explore who can issue a certificate of authenticity and the problems you should look out for.
What is a certificate of authenticity?
A certificate of authenticity (COA) is a document that accompanies a piece of art. It contains information about the artwork, such as the date of creation, the dimensions, the medium and the artist’s name and signature. This information is vital to subsequent collectors, galleries, auction houses and art dealers in ascertaining whether an artwork is genuine and has legitimate provenance. Explore our gallery of 20 Certificate of Authenticity Examples to see a range of visual representations. For COA specifications and further information, see our guide What is a Certificate of Authenticity.
List Of People Who Can Issue A Certificate Of Authenticity
- The original creator of an artwork (The primary issuer of a COA)
- An art gallery representing the artist
- An art dealer representing the artist
- Expert artwork authenticators and art institutions
Artist Issued Certificates of Authenticity
When it comes to Certificates of Authenticity (COAs) for artwork, the original artist holds the highest level of reliability. By issuing COAs themselves, artists provide confirmation that the artwork is an original creation made by their own hand or under their direct supervision.
Artists can personally attest to the authenticity of a piece of art, and certificates of authenticity issued directly by artists hold the greatest value in the art market. The artist’s signature on the COA adds prestige, increasing the artwork’s desirability and market appeal. Collectors often seek out artist-signed COAs as they enhance the provenance and collectability of the artwork.
Art Gallery Issued Certificates of Authenticity
Art galleries (and sometimes art dealers) serve as trusted intermediaries between artists and collectors. They act as reputable entities that can independently verify the authenticity and provenance of artworks. Art galleries can issue certificates of authenticity if they are an authorised representative of the artist.
Galleries typically establish their reputation on the quality and legitimacy of the artwork they sell, so certificates issued by quality galleries carry a lot of weight in the market. Many galleries also have access to industry experts, extensive networks and resources used to establish the provenance of historic works of art. Therefore, even if they have no direct connection to the artist, they are still able to issue a COA.
There is a caveat to this however. Some artist’s work, typically very well known names such as Chagall or Picasso, can only be officially authenticated by the institution which controls their work. This protects the artist’s legacy and ensures market values are protected.
Expert Artwork Authenticators and Art Institution Issued Certificates of Authenticity
If an artwork is being prepared for sale, or is set to form part of a well managed collection, a COA may be issued by an expert artwork authenticator or art institution. These third-party professionals possess extensive knowledge, experience, and technical expertise in specific art mediums and movements. They employ scientific analysis, investigation, examination of artistic techniques, and extensive research to authenticate artwork and issue reliable COAs. Their unbiased assessments contribute to the credibility and integrity of the art market, so much so that some buyers won’t purchase valuable artwork without first having an independent expert report on its authenticity.
In recent years, following a series of high profile disputes, the trust put into third-party authentication reports has diminished. Although still influential, for valuable works a COA is only part of the required provenance, and additional documents that support any claims made will also need to be included to establish authenticity.
On occasion, the third-party expert is a close friend or relative of the artist, who has sometimes died. If they have a very close personal connection to the artist and a deep understanding of their body of work, they can be well placed to issue a certificate of authenticity on behalf of the artist.
How much does it cost to have an artwork authenticated?
Authentication by third parties requires great expertise, and can add enormously to the financial value of an artwork. It makes sense then that professional authentication services are expensive. The minimum cost for a basic authentication service is around £500, with the price rising to many thousands for work by well-known artists or those that require signification investigation. Expect the cost to rise significantly if you require advanced investigation techniques like multispectral imaging, spectroscopy or UV analysis.
Common Problems To Avoid (Unauthorised Issuers)
There are several issues you should be aware of regarding the issuing of certificates of authenticity. Not all COAs are created equally, so being aware of these pitfalls can help protect your artwork and avoid you falling foul of illegitimate certificates and unauthorised issuers.
1. Copies and Replica Documents
To be valid, a certificate of authenticity should be an original document, not a copy.
2. Lack of expertise
Hiring inexperienced or low-quality third-party authenticators who don’t have the requisite expertise, resources or contacts can produce inaccurate or patchy results.
3. Ambiguous Wording
Look out for disclaimers and phrases such as ‘in our opinion’. Conditional statements such as these cast doubt on the statement being made.
4. Inadequate documentation
Sometimes COAs fail to include the right information, and so the authenticity of the artwork cannot be confirmed. Artists themselves can produce worthless COAs if they fail to include the necessary information. Use a professional certificate of authenticity template to avoid problems.
5. Unauthorised Issuers
Sometimes COAs will be issued by unauthorised issuers. Typically these tend to be galleries, resellers or dealers looking to enhance the value of the artwork they are selling or mislead buyers as to the authenticity of a work. Pay attention to who issued the certificate of authenticity, and ensure they are reputable and trustworthy. Some artworks, such those by Picasso, can only be authenticated by a single entity – The Picasso Administration. Any other so called certificates of authenticity will be deemed illegitimate.
6. Forged Signatures and Fakes
Some sellers will attempt to forge the signature or seal of a particular artist or authorised gallery in an attempt to mislead buyers. Since the early 2000s, the use of certificates of authenticity alone as a method of verifying the authenticity of artwork has been called into question, due to the sheer volume of fake documents on the market.
Further Information on Certificates of Authenticity
15 Reasons Not To Use A Certificate of Authenticity
20 Certificate of Authenticity Examples
Certificates of Authenticity For Pet Portrait Artists
Where To Buy Certificates Of Authenticity
What Does Certificate Of Authenticity Mean?
Certificates of Authenticity Templates Pack
If you are an artist that is looking to create your own certificates of authenticity, check out our hand template pack. It contains 40 COA templates in 20 different styles, suitable for original artwork and prints.
Art Business Resources
Issuing Certificates of Authenticity For Artwork
Artists of all types can issue their own certificates of authenticity. This includes oil painters, pet portrait artists, watercolour artists, pastel artists and coloured pencil artists. Artist-issued certificates of authenticity are the most reliable, but to be valid they need to contain the correct information. Other parties who can issue certificates of authenticity include art galleries and art dealers. If they are to issue a COA, they must be authorised by the artist or the copyright holder. Finally, COAs can be issued by third party artwork authenticators or art institutions.