The Galerie St. Etienne prides itself on its depth of expertise in the selected areas of art in which it specializes. We offer a broad array of services to both private collectors and public institutions.
AUTHENTICATION AND PROVENANCE RESEARCH
Some areas of the art-world (including flea markets, second-hand shops and many internet auction sites) are rife with fakes, most of which are fortunately quite easily detected by anyone with a moderately educated eye. If you are buying a simple collectible or if the amount of money involved is not great, you may be willing to take a chance. However, as the price rises, so should your degree of caution.
When purchasing fine art, it is prudent to follow these basic rules:
• Beware of anything that looks too good to be true: it probably is. Great "finds"--that is to say, works inadvertently sold way below their actual value--are extraordinarily rare.
• Check the catalogue raisonné to see if the work is listed.
• When appropriate, make your purchase contingent on getting an authentication from a qualified expert; if at all possible, do not remit payment until you have a satisfactory authentication in hand.
• Sometimes it may also be appropriate to verify the provenance of the work.
• Buy from a reputable, established dealer.
The Catalogue Raisonné
A catalogue raisonné is a complete documentation, compiled by a recognized scholar, of an artist's production in a given medium or mediums. Catalogues raisonnés are extremely useful in identifying and documenting genuine works. However, sometimes genuine works are missed by the authors of such books. If you are offered a work that is not in the pertinent catalogue raisonné, or if there is no catalogue raisonné, you must locate and consult the expert of record in order to determine whether the work you have been offered is authentic. Also, be aware that a copy or reproduction may well look like an image in the catalogue raisonné, even if it is not an original work by the artist. If you find your work in the catalogue raisonné, compare the images carefully, and check the present whereabouts listed for the catalogued piece. Sometimes an artist does create two versions of the same subject, but often a duplicate work is a forger's copy.
Provenance is the history of a work's ownership, from the time of creation to the present day. A complete chain of provenance confirms authenticity (by tying the work back to the artist or his/her estate) and title. However, the vast majority of art works on the market today, including most prints and modern works on paper, do not have complete chains of provenance, largely because they were not (at least until recently) worth enough to merit tracking. Even major oil paintings can have gaps in their provenances, because wealthy collectors often crave anonymity.
In recent years, growing awareness that works looted by the Nazis during World War II were not always properly restituted to their rightful owners has made provenance research a matter of increased urgency. The Galerie St. Etienne, due to its prewar Viennese origins, has always been extremely conscious of these issues. After the war, our contacts with Austrian collectors were invaluable in reconstructing lost inventories (particularly of Schiele oil paintings), and Otto Kallir, the gallery's founder, was personally committed to helping Holocaust survivors recover as much as was possible.
Since the revival of interest in art restitution, the Galerie St. Etienne has renewed its activities on behalf of claimants, and has used its extensive archives to help document claims and provenance.
FAKES AND FORGERIES
Fakes and forgeries generally fall into one of the following categories:
Reproductions In most cases, you will be able to tell a reproduction because the photomechanical screen (i.e., dot pattern) used to manufacture offset reproductions is visible under a magnifying glass. However, some older reproductions were made without screens and can look deceptively like original prints or drawings.
Copies Like reproductions, copies as a rule depict known works whose location is well documented, and there are usually blatant stylistic tip-offs that differentiate copies from their prototypes. A good catalogue raisonné is your best source for finding the original prototype on which a copy is based
Works by Anonymous Artists with Forged Signatures Often, someone will add the signature of a famous artist to an unsigned anonymous work. Usually, these anonymous works have little or nothing in common with genuine works by the artist in question. Beware of being told that something is an "early" work by a well-known artist! Even before an artist develops the style for which he or she becomes famous, there are certain salient characteristics that distinguish genuine works from those of other, lesser artists
Pastiches of Known Works Creative forgers will sometimes combine elements from two or more known works by a famous artist. These combinations are often awkward, and there are almost always stylistic tip-offs that distinguish pastiches from genuine works
Wholly Original Compositions These are the most difficult types of forgeries to execute successfully, but, when done well, also the most difficult to detect. In order to succeed, the creator of an original forgery must come up with a composition that could conceivably have originated with the artist to whom it is being attributed, and must also convincingly emulate all aspects of that artist's style and signature.
How We Can Help
The Galerie St. Etienne guarantees the authenticity of everything we sell and is the internationally recognized authority on:
• Anna Mary Robertson ("Grandma") Moses
• Egon Schiele
We wrote the catalogues raisonnés on these artists and are routinely consulted by museums, collectors, dealers and auction houses seeking to authenticate works that are not included in our books.
We are also frequently consulted about authenticating works attributed to: • Richard Gerstl • Gustav Klimt • Oskar Kokoschka • Käthe Kollwitz If you need to authenticate a work by any of the above or by another of "our" artists, we will • Give an oral opinion gratis • Issue a certificate of authenticity for any Grandma Moses or Egon Schiele that we judge to be genuine • Provide access to our archive and library • Put you in touch with an appropriate expert if further research is required • Provide assistance in researching provenance, including matters related to Holocaust-era losses We maintain an extensive archive and research library (including pertinent catalogues raisonnés) to assist in evaluating works attributed to the artists in whom we specialize. Although we do not issue certificates of authenticity on artists other than Egon Schiele and Grandma Moses, we are in touch with all the leading experts who are qualified to authenticate works by the artists we represent.
If you need help with an authentication or with provenance research, please contact us. Your initial inquiry should if possible include a photograph of the work, a close-up photo of the signature, a full physical description (medium, support, size), a transcription of any inscriptions, labels, etc., on the front and/or back of the work, and an ownership, exhibition and publication history. We can often give preliminary opinions based on photographs, but you may eventually need to bring or send the work to us for examination. Please, however, make an appointment before doing so!