If you cannot personally attend an auction it is important that you have a complete understanding of the item’s condition. Here are a few questions to ask the auction house prior to bidding before purchasing a painting, drawing or lithograph.
- Is there surface grime (does the painting need to be cleaned)?
- Is there yellowing, staining or foxing on artworks on paper)?
- Is there craquelure – a network of fine cracks in the paint or varnish – on a painted artwork?
- Are there signs of insect infestation? This is particularly important for painted artwork on wood panels.
- How is the artwork adhered to the backing? For example, is it floated (recommended), lightly taped (ok) or glued down (difficult to remove to replace the backing).
It is equally important to ascertain if the artwork is genuine. Ask the following questions, and if still in doubt, consider obtaining a a second opinion, perhaps someone notable in the field of work.
- What is the provenance (history of ownership) of the artwork? Good provenance provides the assurance that the work you’re about to acquire is genuine.
- Has the artwork been authenticated? If so, by whom?
- Is there a certificate of authenticity from a reliable source? (For example, many artworks by Italian painters are accompanied with a signed document that includes photo of the artist with the painting.