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Are certificates of authenticity useful for artists?

  • Are certificates of authenticity useful for artists?

Are certificates of authenticity useful for artists?

What is a certificate of authenticity?

A certificate of authenticity is a document required to attribute a work of painting, sculpture or photography to an artist. It may include the title of the work, the date of its creation, the name of the artist and various elements specific to the artistic discipline (medium, dimensions, number of copies made, materials, photo of the work, etc.).

Without a certificate of authenticity, it is impossible to evaluate the work according to its provenance or to link it to an artist. Its only value depends on its size, technique, materials used and the subject represented. As an artist, you must provide a certificate of authenticity to the buyer (even if he or she does not ask for it) along with the invoice for the sale of your work.
What is the value of a certificate of authenticity?

The value of a certificate of authenticity comes from the reputation of the person who writes it, when this person is recognised at the time of writing the certificate by all the professionals, as the most competent for this subject or for this artist. As the profession of art expert is not regulated, all artists and professionals can draw up a certificate of authenticity themselves. In the case of a work of a certain value, it is advisable to call upon an expert approved by the courts who will offer to carry out the legal valuation of your works. This evaluation will be carried out within the strict framework of the law by implementing the necessary means to provide a fair certification of your works. This legal quotation is the reference that is accepted by insurance companies, institutional bodies and collectors.

Some questions from ArtxTerra

Do I have to include a certificate of authenticity with the sale of my work?

This is a very interesting question, the immediate answer is: it is not compulsory, but it is strongly advised for many reasons. If the amateur artist can do without a certificate of authenticity, it is on the other hand essential for a professional approach to the sale of art, all art actors use them, if the artist wants to change his amateur status, he must comply with it, moreover it will greatly enhance his works and his credibility vis-à-vis his buyers and partners.

What is the purpose of a certificate of authenticity?

The certificate serves to guarantee the authenticity of a work by the seller, it is a written commitment that certifies that the work is an original, it is a security for the buyer, because if the work turns out not to be authentic the buyer is entitled to cancel the sale. It is an important document in the event of the resale or transfer of the work.

In the past, the signature on a work was sufficient, but with the abundance of copies and forgeries on the art market, the certificate has become indispensable and must be issued by the seller of the work. Of course, there are always those who are reluctant to provide anything, but they should really revise their point of view, because it is a very important element in the art world.

What should a certificate contain (date of creation of the work, date of issue of the certificate, official signature, artist's signature, image of the work, history of the work, type and format of paper, etc.)?

The certificate must contain compulsory information in order to correctly identify the work and to comply with the 1981 Marcus decree which determines the legal framework for certificates of authenticity in France, bearing in mind that many countries recognise this information. This includes some of the elements mentioned, but it is really necessary to refer to the decree, or to use the services of Artcertificate in order to correctly write the mentions in the customary language of art experts.

If all artists can, as sellers of their works, draw up a certificate of authenticity, it is strongly advised against doing it yourself in an 'artisanal' manner, using non-specialised software, on pain of invalidity or non-credibility vis-à-vis your buyers. It is essential to call on a registration organisation such as Artcertificate in order to be certain of respecting the law, but also the forms, while guaranteeing registration on a database, access to a qrcode etc. All of this allows your buyers to be totally confident about the work they are acquiring.

Do I have to provide a certificate if I make smaller, but unique works (real small formats, bookmarks, handmade jewellery, etc.)? In this case, what form should the certificate take?

All works by all artists can be accompanied by certificates of authenticity, as long as the objects are originals and depend on an artist (or craftsman); given that a certificate costs between €2.5 and €3.5, even low-priced works can benefit from it, and it also increases their psychological value for buyers by acting as a guarantee. The certificate can be presented in different forms and personalised to each artist by incorporating a logo, etc.

When you are asked: what is the list of elements to be found in a certificate of authenticity, you do not answer, why?

I purposely don't answer this question because many articles make an exhaustive list without ever touching the legal reality, that's why I think that it's not worth going into this enumeration but rather to recall the legal framework.

The Marcus decree legally stipulates the nature of the document, the compulsory information and above all the terms used when drafting the document, so we can see the legal weight of the signature of the work itself, the quality of the copy and reproduction, and the importance of the vocabulary used.

I had this text studied by a legal adviser in order to understand the contours of the document, which proved to be very interesting because it allowed me to better understand the nature of this document. I also confronted this information with a legal expert in order to cross-reference this information, which obliges one to delve into the law, which is not always accessible to all. In the interest of sharing information, here is a filmed discussion that was made about the Marcus decree:

Following these studies, I prefer not to give a miracle recipe or list, because the most important thing is to be in conformity with the legislation, it is this guarantee that I give to the artists who use Artcertificate, it is not necessary for them to know the law, it is enough to be guided according to its type of work, and for the more difficult cases to ask me directly for advice; and when it is necessary, to make study the particular case with a legal adviser.

I also keep a close eye on a few art-related topics in order to be able to guide artists in their certification: digital art and copyright, blockchain and its proper use in art. I think I am the only one on the internet to have this approach in order to be sure to comply with the good practices of professionals who always act in accordance with the legislation. It seems obvious that an artist who would like to edit certificates in an 'artisanal' way without being accompanied risks producing documents that are not compliant and legally not admissible. The aspects of saving on a database and the security of the document are also important and depend on other legal texts :-)

The creation of a certificate of authenticity is exciting, but it must not be improvised and it must be done according to the rules of art and the law.

If you want to know more, just go to the website:

I have also published a book: 'Le secret des certificats d'authenticité' which explains how to add value to your works with certificates of authenticity.

And finally go to the channel:

For more specific information, you can always call me on +34 63 84 555 72.