Provenance: How To Record The History Of Your Art

Male Recording Artwork History

You see an online listing for a rare Thomas Kinkade original. How can you be sure this artwork is original or reassure buyers of your own artwork? The answer is provenance. We’ve put together tips, tricks, and everything you need to know about recording the history of your art.

What Does Provenance Mean?

According to The Getty Research Institute, provenance has to do with the history of ownership of a valuable object. Examples include paintings, books, antiques, sculptures, and other collectibles.

Why Should You Care About The History Of Your Artwork?

A full provenance, or complete record of your artwork’s history, makes it easier to trace ownership, prove authenticity, and assign the work to the original artist. Art collecting can be an investment in your future or the future of your descendants.

Even if you collect for pure enjoyment, finding out your latest acquisition is a fake or the result of theft can be disappointing or even devastating.

Tips For Researching Art Provenance

“Complete provenance: the exception, not the rule.” – Cornell University Johnson Museum Of Art

As important as provenance is, the older your collectible, the less likely you are to have full provenance. Therefore, tracking down a paper trail can be a challenge. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Document What You Have
  • Know Where To Look For More Information
  • Understand How To Read Provenance Records
  • Stuck? Visit a Fine Art Gallery Near You.

Keep A Physical & Digital Record Of What You Have

Purchase receipts, certificates of authenticity, restoration, and conservation records – this paperwork shouldn’t be collected in a folder and left in a desk drawer to be forgotten about. Keep the latest links in your artwork’s past safe from pests like rodents, mold, and insects. Make sure whoever is handling your art estate has copies and knows where to find the originals.

Lastly, back everything up digitally and keep copies in the cloud in case of flood, fire, or other disasters that may ruin your onsite computer files.

Records To Find & Protect Now

  • Creator
  • All Ownership History You Have Access To
  • Available Exhibition History
  • Publication History
  • Restoration & Conservation Efforts
  • Appraisal Value

Know Where To Look For More Information

You may have a process ahead of you, but thankfully, tracking down the origins and background of your art can start right from the comfort of your own home. You can find exhibition records, catalog raisonné (written by experts on your particular artist), and theft reports.

Understand How To Read Provenance Records

How do you read historical records once you find them? Cornell University’s Johnson Museum Of Art has put together a great guide on how to read a provenance. You can find information on how to read listed dates, ownership information, sales, types of transactions, and common formats you might run into.

Learn More About Authentic Thomas Kinkade Paintings

For more information on your Thomas Kinkade collectibles, particularly, we invite you to visit a Thomas Kinkade fine art gallery in California. We have convenient locations in Placerville, Monterey, and Carmel. Our friendly Art Consultants will be happy to go over your authenticity documentation and recommend new additions to your collection.