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Certificate of Authenticity explained

November 10, 2015 3 min read

Ever wonder what a Certificate of Authenticity is, or why aboriginal art galleries say their paintings come with them? 

A Certificate of Authenticity is a document certifying an individual artwork as being authentically painted (or created if that's more applicable) by the said artist. The Certificate of Authenticity (CoA) is a product of the gallery (or artist's representative) and bears their signature or declaration of the artwork's authenticity. It often contains important details to identify the painting such as title, artist's name, dimensions and the individual code or image of the painting. Additionally, it should contain any information the artist wishes to convey that is specific to the individual artwork or its subject matter.  


This information is all very nice to have, and we put trust in the gallery or representative to provide accurate information and documentation but, almost unwittingly, a CoA also provides provenance of the artwork. And herein lies its real value.

The reputation of the certifying authority counts when it comes to resale down the track - if you're thinking of doing that. If you're not, then this probably holds little significance to you. If you're looking to resell a collectible piece, auction houses and on-sellers will want to know it's provenance...where it came from and how reputable those origins are. A CoA helps, and in some cases is the only way to truly trace the artwork back to it's origin. Therefore it is very important to keep this document. I recommend keeping it in a sleeve tucked in the back of the stretched painting - that way you always know it is with the painting, or perhaps you would prefer to keep it in a nice folder you can bring out at dinner parties to show friends... Either way, be sure to hold onto to your CoA.

As mentioned above, it's not just about tracing the artworks origins, it's important that those origins lead to a reputable source. While I can't tell you who is and who isn't a reputable source, and this list likely differs between individual on-seller reps, if you are truly interested in buying to re-sell I can recommend you do your research into the history of the painting and where the CoA comes from. 

Artist profiles

An artist profile or biography is a separate document. Wherever possible, paintings will come with an artist profile in addition to any other documentation. The profile purely contains information known or relevant about the artist for you to have - similar to what you might find on a Wikipedia page: an opening statement on what the artist is most known for, career information, a little about their personal or family life and perhaps a list of exhibitions and collections if relevant.

What about photos of the artist?

A lot of CoA's come with a photo of the artist holding the artwork, or standing next to it if it is more convenient. This is like an added signature. While this may not provide hard proof that the artwork was painted or created by the said artist, it is widely accepted as being the closest evidence.

By having their photo taken with the artwork, likewise so when signing it, the artist 'claims' the piece as being their work. This is leading into a broader topic about authenticity but for now, in relation to CoA's, you can generally expect to receive such a photo (except for smaller works due to their size and thus lack of on-sell potential).

If you're lucky, you might also get a photo of the artist painting the artwork...that's rare but wonderful. Why? Again, we can explore more on that subject in another article. In the meantime, feel free to contact us if you have any questions and we'll be happy to help you as best we can. Remember to sign up to our mailing list if you're interested to keep in touch and see what we're writing about.

1 Response

Tracey Slingsby
Tracey Slingsby

April 21, 2017

Good morning. My Godmother loved Utopian art and she had a lovely collection which she has passed on to me. Sadly,the certificates anc the book where she had recorded all her purchases was lost when she died and I have no proof of authenticity, except for a couple of photos with the artist. Is there any way of identifying the signitures as belonging to the artist? I will appreciate any advice you can give me. Kind regards Tracey

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