Thursday, May 26, 2011

Of Morrisseau and Provenance

The best provenance—or detailed history—includes documentary evidence of past owners and their locations giving a Morrisseau painting a pedigree which makes it far more valuable than an 'unprovenanced' artwork. Examples might include a handwritten letter by Norval Morrisseau to the original purchaser, a copy of a cancelled cheque to Morrisseau as proof of payment or some other documentation, by the original owner, which tells the story of the purchase from the artist. Generally speaking, provenance is an acquired characteristic of value that should be accounted for in fair market valuations. But when it comes to Morrisseau and provenance, an old property law doctrine called caveat emptor or "let the buyer beware" has never rung truer. The prudent collector should beware of blanket statements like "Provenance leading directly to the artist" that are not backed up by verifiable facts. Likewise, unexplained gaps in a painting's history can be cause for concern. Ideally, the origin of a painting should be traced back to the time that it was created by the artist. Our unique history with Norval Morrisseau has led at least one gallery owner to go so far as to assert a provenance attributed to KRG when, in fact, none existed. If you have any doubt about authenticity, contact a trusted dealer to give you his or her opinion.
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