Investments in works of unknown artists of the 19th – 20th centuries

Investments in works of unknown artists of the 19th – 20th centuries. and subsequent research work to identify authorship.

Investing in works of unknown artists from the 19th and 20th centuries, followed by research to identify authorship, can be a fascinating and potentially rewarding endeavor. This process involves a blend of art investment, historical research, and detective work. Here are some steps and considerations for those interested in pursuing this path:

1. Initial Acquisition

Where to Find Artworks:

  • Auctions (especially local or less well-known ones)
  • Estate sales
  • Online marketplaces
  • Antique shops
  • Art fairs

What to Look For:

  • Quality of the artwork
  • Unique or distinctive styles
  • Any signatures, marks, or labels
  • Provenance or any history available

2. Research and Authentication

Initial Research:

  • Examine the artwork for any clues (signatures, inscriptions, labels on the back, etc.)
  • Consult art history books, auction catalogs, and online databases for similar works or artists
  • Reach out to online forums or communities focused on art history or specific art periods

Professional Authentication:

  • Art historians: Experts in specific periods or styles can provide insights or even identify the artist.
  • Conservators: Can analyze materials and techniques used, which can help date the work and possibly link it to a specific artist or school.
  • Provenance researchers: Specialize in tracing the history and ownership of artworks, which can sometimes lead to identifying the artist.
  • Scientific analysis: Techniques like X-ray fluorescence (XRF), infrared reflectography, and dendrochronology (for wooden panels) can provide data on materials and methods, supporting the authentication process.

3. Legal Considerations

  • Due Diligence: Ensure the artwork was legally acquired and that there are no disputes over its ownership.
  • Copyright: Depending on the country and the specific case, the artist or their heirs might still hold copyright over the work.

4. Financial Considerations

  • Costs: Be prepared for the costs of research, authentication, and possible restoration, in addition to the purchase price.
  • Value Appreciation: If the artist is successfully identified and has a market, the artwork’s value could significantly increase. However, this is not guaranteed.

5. Selling or Holding

  • Decision Time: If the artist is identified and the work’s value increases, you may choose to sell (through auction houses, galleries, or private sales) or hold onto the piece as part of a collection.
  • Market Trends: Keep an eye on market trends for similar artworks or artists to make informed decisions.
Investing in unknown artworks with the aim of identifying their creators is a speculative but potentially rewarding venture. It requires patience, a willingness to invest not just money but also time in research, and a passion for art and history. Success stories in this field can lead to significant financial gains and contribute valuable knowledge to the art historical record. However, it’s important to approach such investments with caution, recognizing the risks and the possibility that the artist may never be identified or that the artwork may not significantly appreciate in value.