ENTERTAINMENT NEWS - Provenance establishes the chain of ownership back to its creation date. It considers for whom the piece was commissioned, and whether it has featured in any important art exhibitions.
Provenance: no, it’s not a region in France
Nevertheless, the origin of the name is rooted in French from the word ‘provenir’, which means ‘arise from’.
Any auction house, gallery or art dealer worth their salt tracks the history of an artwork with the due diligence of a forensic investigator.
Provenance establishes the chain of ownership back to its creation date. It considers for whom the piece was commissioned, and whether it has featured in any important art exhibitions.
Art validators use provenance to establish the authenticity and value of an artwork – it is also one of the leading causes of litigation in the art world.
The provenance of Porsche and Pierneef
Let’s say you decide to invest in a vintage Porsche 911.
Any savvy collector would like to know what is going on under the car’s bonnet, who its previous owners were and how they treated the car. Is the engine in mint condition? Was it part of an actor’s car collection where it was kept in a showroom, serviced regularly and driven to a car show once a year, or did it languish away in a barn among roosting chickens?
The ownership and ‘public appearance’ of the car also contribute to its perceived value. A 1967 Jaguar E-Type Series roadster has much more cultural clout than the later models because of its appearance in the James Bond film ‘Casino Royal’. It’s a pop culture icon of its time, which greatly contributes to the car’s provenance and value.
But whether we’re talking cars or works of fine art, the principle of provenance remains the same.
One of the upcoming lots in the Strauss & Co May autumn auction, ‘Study for Klipriviersberg, Alberton’ (R1 800 000 – 2 400 000) from South African landscape artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef is famed for being a precursor of the ‘Klipriviersberg, Alberton’ panel that form part of the Station Panels commission for the old Johannesburg Park Station.
Regarded as Pierneef’s most acclaimed public commissions and a pinnacle of South African landscape art, the 32 panels illustrate South Africa’s natural splendour and were intentioned to encourage rail travel within the Union of South Africa. Pierneef was commissioned by architects Gerard Moerdijk and Gordon Leith in 1929 to paint the collection.
‘Study for Klipriviersberg, Alberton’has cultural clout as they are linked to an important cultural event in South African history. The chain of ownership is immaculate –PL Meyer whose farmhouse appears in the paintings acquired the painting from Pierneef. And they remained in the Meyer family for generations, during which time they also featured in ‘PG Nel’s JH Pierneef: His Life and Works’, a comprehensive overview of the artist’s life and oeuvre.
Going back to the beginning
As with most things in life, the devil often lies in the detail. Art specialists try to trace an artwork back to its conception while considering a range of differentials, as not all artworks of master artists are created equal.
An Anton Van Wouw bronze sculpture that was cast at the Nsini or Massa foundry in Rome is considered more valuable than one that was cast in a local foundry due to the superior workmanship associated with the Italian foundries at the time.
The previous owners also contribute to the value of the artwork. If the artwork was owned by a renowned art collector such as Charles Saatchi of the famed Saatchi Gallery in London, or more locally, the Rupert family, you can expect it to reach high hammer prices at an auction. A previous owners’ art taste, knowledge and influence serves as a stamp of approval for the artwork’s cultural significance, as well as its commercial value.
Novice art collectors often think they should receive a certificate of proof of authenticity when they purchase an artwork, but that isn’t always the case.
“When you buy art from a reputable art auction house or art dealer, collectors enjoy the peace of mind that expert art specialists have done an extensive investigation into the provenance of the artwork. An auction house’s good name is its most important asset,” Strauss & Co Senior art specialist, Wilhelm van Rensburg explains.
“Any institution caught dealing in forged or stolen property will suffer immense reputational damage. The fact that they are attaching their name and professional capacity to the artwork serves as a certificate of authenticity of the work,” he concludes.