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Mario Testino auctions his art collection at Sotheby’s London

On September 13, Mario Testino will auction 41 items from his personal art collection with Sotheby’s to benefit Museo MATE, the nonprofit cultural centre he founded in Lima, Peru. 

Testino is a voracious admirer and friend of many of the artists represented in the sale — from Richard Prince to Cindy Sherman to Wolfgang Tillmans —making this a rare auction that represents more than acquisitions. No wonder the title of the sale is “Shake It Up”. 

According to Testino, “it’s a big exercise to detach yourself from your belongings in order to satisfy greater ambitions. I’ve been collecting for over 25 years and I’ve never ever sold anything. Today is the first time that I’ve decided to sell something because I can see a reason to sell. It’s allowing me to give back to the community that gave me everything.”

Testino explains he came to know and love some of the works with which he’s parting: “in the art world, sometimes it’s not enough to like something; you have to be puzzled by it. You hang it on a wall and every time you see [it], you discover something new. Sometimes I would find a work and I felt it was difficult, but then I’d come back to it after some time and I’d understand it and love it. I think that culture has a particularly important role in society: we learn how to look at things differently, and it pushes our boundaries—that’s what art does.”

Renowned artists from 45 different nationalities will be represented across the auction, including Richard Prince, Georg Baselitz, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rudolf Stingel, Sterling Ruby, Gilbert & George, Adriana Varejão and Cindy Sherman.

The exhibition is on view from September 8 through September 13, 2017 at Sotheby’sGallery, 34-35 New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA.

What we learned from the Knoedler fakes scandal

Are collectors “stupid” to spend millions of dollars on a work of art without personally investigating its authenticity? This is what Robert Storr, the former dean of Yale University School of Art argues.

Storr was speaking at a panel hosted by Ifar (International Foundation for Art Research) in New York in July about the issues raised by the Knoedler fakes scandal, which resulted in the illustrious New York gallery’s closure. Knoedler and its former director claim they were duped by the forgeries of paintings by Rothko, Motherwell and Pollock, among others, as much as their customers were.

The question of who should investigate authenticity remains hotly contested. “If you’re dealing with a reputable dealer and getting… promises and information, you should be able to rely on that,” said John Cahill, who represented two Knoedler plaintiffs, at the event. Adam Sheffer, the president of the Art Dealers Association of America, believes that the buyers of the Knoedler fakes could have done more. “They could have worked with the gallery to ask questions… Everyone needs to take responsibility,” he said.

The GSA goes after another painting

Collector Myron Kaplan paid US$57,500 for Abstraction #6 by Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) at Sotheby’s on November 20, 1997. The work was estimated at US$15,000/20,000, and the provenance in the catalogue noted that it was “acquired directly from the artist.”

In May 2016—almost 20 years after he bought it—Kaplan received a letter from the General Services Administration (GSA) stating that the painting was produced under the New Deal and remains the property of the U.S. government. The letter noted, “the last possessor of the painting [indicated] that the painting was retrieved approximately 50 years ago from the Port Richmond High School in Staten Island. The painting was discarded due to a renovation of the school building and recovered by their [sic] relation, a school staff member.”

Reinhardt was involved with the federal art program administered by the Works Progress Administration. He worked in the Easel Division of the Federal Art Project. The GSA claims that all works created under the various New Deal art projects are government property, and when the works are found, the GSA demands their return.

Kaplan’s attorney, Debra A. Mayer, contacted Sotheby’s and the GSA in an attempt to confirm the painting’s provenance from before the auction. Sotheby’s refused to provide any information about the consignor without a subpoena; the GSA also refused to provide Mayer with any information, she states in court papers. The GSA is demanding immediate possession and has threatened to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney for criminal prosecution, Mayer claims.

Mayer, on behalf of Kaplan, has filed a motion in court seeking a subpoena to compel Sotheby’s to provide complete records of the consignment in 1997 and all documents provided by Sotheby’s to the GSA “pursuant to its December 2015 subpoena to Sotheby’s concerning this matter.

Two more antiquities may have to be returned by the National Gallery of Australia to India

Two more Asian antiquities in the National Gallery of Australia’s collection may have to be returned to India, with news of a new arrest in relation to an Indian art smuggling ring. Another antiquity trader has been arrested who may be involved in the looting of two pieces – an 1800-year-old limestone carving showing a scene from the life of Buddha and a 12th century statue of the Hindu goddess Pratyangira.

The report says investigators believe antiquity trader Deena Dayalan sold these two sculptures to disgraced New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is awaiting trial in an Indian prison. Kapoor sold the pieces to the NGA in 2005, which paid $800,000 for the Buddha and nearly $340,000 for the goddess Pratyangira.

Following an investigation by the NGA of its Asian art collection, the uncertain provenance of the works had already been flagged in the Crennan Report, released by the gallery in February, which identified at least 22 works under suspicion.