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So you're about to buy a work of art? Here's what to do.

IMG_2798 Image: Barnebys/Do Ho Suh/Victoria Miro

Is it true love or a fleeting fancy?

Experienced collectors can make their fare share of mistakes, so it makes sense to think over your initial reactions to a piece of art. Will it fit into your existing collection? How and where you would display it? Is the price within your range?

Annelien Bruins of Tang Art Advisory offers her clients a professional's perspective without revealing her personal responses to the work of art.

''My job is to give them my professional opinion on the quality of the work they are considering buying. For example, an artist may have a number of works available but there may be only one or two that I think are worth buying—because the composition is better, the technique is better applied, it is more representative of the artist’s work, and the price is more appropriate.''

She recommends a "test run" with a work of art to avoid any buyer's remorse, as Many galleries will allow you to take a work of art home for a few weeks. This is a good option before a major purchase. It will give you a chance to experience the work and determine if you could live with the piece or it was simply a fleeting fancy.

Is the price right for you?

Record-breaking prices for famous works of art make great headlines, but most of us will not be adding a Picasso, Rembrandt or Rothko to our collections. Prices for works of art vary greatly and even the most experienced collectors need to do research when making a decision.

Using tools such as Barnebys realized price bank to search works by the same artist, same school or similar style are good starting points, worth checking in before a purchase.

Gordon Lewis recognisizes the challenge of determining the monetary value of a piece of art, especially for new collectors.

''While there are many great and honest dealers in the field, there are also a number who, if they were not art dealers, would be selling used cars, or deeply involved in horse trading. If it is a lot of money, the prudent collector will ask his attorney to ‘vet’ the dealer—in other words confirm that the dealer is reputable with a sterling reputation. However, it must be remembered that even reputable dealers can be fooled and inadvertently pass along a piece which will turn out to be fake.''

Is it the real McCoy?

Even prestigious museums and many collectors have been fallen victim to forgeries. The recent Knoedler gallery scandal is just one of many tales of fake art.

''There are two avenues which are pursued to verify a painting’s authenticity: scientific testing of the paint and the material upon which it is painted. A competent conservation scientist will sample them, test them and tell if everything is (or is not) consistent with the materials available at that time. Once this is done, an expert in the stylistics of the artist is consulted to give an opinion regarding the authorship of the painting,'' explains Allen Olson-Urtecho, of Fine Arts Adjusters.

Provenance of the artwork is the second important piece of information to gather

''Art forgeries are the greatest problem of the Art World, some segments of the Art World are overwhelmed and flooded with fakes and forgeries. A Collector should ask about the three aspects of authentication: Provenance, Connoisseurship, and Forensics. The Collector should ask that these three aspects be answered for in a painting, and then to request an outside opinion or review. There are laboratories, foundations of artist estates, art historians, forensic experts, and others that may be helpful in answering questions of authenticity.''

Collectors are advised to get both certificates of authenticity and provenance at the time of purchase. This paper trail will be helpful to collectors seeking appraisals, buying insurance, or for future sales. These offer the best assurance that you are buying the real thing and it is a good idea for purchases made both in the primary and secondary art markets.

''Buying art on the primary market simply means that the work of art you buy is coming straight out of the artist’s studio and has never been sold before. So you are buying it directly from the artist or their gallery. Still make sure you get your certificate of authenticity though; you need this if ever you wanted to resell the work. The secondary market pretty much encompasses everything else: any artwork offered for resale. So this could vary from buying an Old Masters at auction to purchasing a Gerhard Richter from a collector who owned it before you,'' comments Annelien Bruins.
Is it in good health?

The condition of a work of art is a critical issue at the time of purchase. Check for signs of light damage, physical damages or if you will need to hire the services of a conservator before you enjoy the piece.

''Even museums and dealers often are unable to understand condition, as much as one would like to believe otherwise. The best investment that can be made is to hire a highly experienced conservator to examine condition and offer other important observations,'' explains Gordon Lewis.

Annelien Bruins points to one advantage of a primary market purchase as ''the good thing about buying directly from the artist is that you have direct access to them in case there is damage to the work. If the artist does not want to restore the work, they will usually recommend a conservator who they trust with their work.''

Is it all mine?

There are legal issues to consider when purchasing a work of art. With so many contemporary artists ''borrowing'' images and creating collages, it's important to learn exactly what you are buying. Adam Russ, of Wasser & Russ, LLP, offers an attorney's point-of-view on the complicated issues of copyright and art.

''Buying a completed work of art directly from the artist is less fraught with provenance and title issues. However, when buying from an artist a collector should make sure that the work of art is an original, that it does not infringe on any third-parties rights and that the artist has clear and unencumbered title to the work of art. The collector should also find who owns and controls the copyright for the work of art and whether or not the artist waives or retains any moral rights with respect to the work of art.''

Adam Russ advises art collectors to get as much information as possible about a work of art before buying it.

So before you buy, remember to take five! For more art service, search on The Clarion List here.

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