Ariane Moser
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English Russian

The Interview: Ariane Moser, COO Artive

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Due diligence in the art market is a crucial part of art transactions, considering rising popularity of various international online selling venues, and a great number of independent art and antique sellers. In Russia antiques may be sold online via the local online platforms, antique shops, online auctions and even online forums.

It is not easy to check the credibility of a seller, however the number of sellers and online selling venues is rising, and it is certainly combined with the risks for the buyer (and of course for the seller who may not know what he is selling).

— How serious is the problem of forgeries and stolen objects? How important is the role of a seller? Who may be considered a "good" seller, and how to check the credibility of a seller?

— It is hard to put a reliable, statistical value on forged and stolen art works circulating the legitimate art market. There are still many thefts that aren’t reported and many fakes and forgeries that aren’t known. Thefts and forgeries form a big part in the sphere of art crime, alongside money laundering, looting of archaeological sites etc. The remains a serious problem. The severity of this issue calls for responsible and diligent buyers and sellers alike.

Due diligence is a paramount part of any risk management process prior to any art transaction.

Unfortunately, it can be quite challenging in the current, still unregulated market to know the true identity and check the credibility of a seller, especially on online auction sites like Ebay etc. When in doubt, don’t buy or investigate further. This could be in the form of internet research, check local company registries, enquire within your network etc.

— How to be protected from purchasing forgery or stolen objects, especially online with so many online auctions and selling platforms? What would be due diligence advice for acquisition of antiques? What kind of research may be done before the acquisition, if purchasing without help of a professional art dealer?

Ариан Мозер (Ariane Moser)
Ariane Moser (Photo: courtesy of The Art Partners)

— To protect yourself from purchasing forged or stolen objects, be sure you undertake sufficient due diligence in terms of “knowing” who you’re buying from and what you are buying. This is of course easier said than done. How many questions are enough questions, how much due diligence is enough? There are a couple of things that a buyer can keep in mind: Inquire about the standards of the sale: does the price seem legitimate? Do some market research around the particular artist/maker, seek the help of someone who does valuations. Undertake forensic analysis if necessary. Also be on high alert if the identity of the seller is concealed, if the object has no provenance, no image, the description of the object contains lots of typos, if the seller is reluctant to provide information about provenance and/or conditions of the piece, and there are no clear terms and conditions of the sale. Look into any export or import restrictions that need to be regarded during the sale, for antiquities, check relevant sources and red flag lists (i.e. ICOM red flag list), check the news for any alerts and be clear about the source country and time of export from that source country, i.e. know as much about the provenance as possible! There are many new initiatives out there, like The Art Due Diligence Group in London or the Responsible Art Market Initiative in Switzerland, endeavouring to change and raise the standard of due diligence by assisting in all due diligence processes that are involved in an art transaction.

— Which preventive measures could be taken to protect a collection (object) from stealing? What can be done if a collection (object) is already stolen?

— There are of course “physical” security measures you can put into place, like security guards, CCTV and alarm installations. Establishing a good network and relationship with your local law enforcement agency and other specialist networks within your sector and collector’s community can help too. Lastly, a comprehensive documentation (including location of each piece, insurance details, photographs, valuation and condition reports etc.) will help speed up the recovery in the event that the stolen objects are located. This is good practice for a good collection management or inventory system and is invaluable.

If you have been the victim of a theft, your first step would be to report the incident to the police, register the loss with databases like Artive, make sure that the market is alerted in some way to your loss. You could start scan the market for upcoming lots as a proactive approach, in addition to the work organisations like Artive are already doing. If you are a potential buyer, then make sure to check databases for any potential title disputes, do your due diligence as mentioned earlier before committing to the sale.

— Interpol is an intergovernmental organization having its own database. Is Artive linked to the Interpol database? Is it linked to non-English databases?

— Interpol is its own entity and governmental agency that would find it very hard to be linked to outside entities. It is a valuable resource as it establishes a common connection and channel between law enforcement agencies. Artive offers to professionally check the Interpol database of stolen art when conducting a search against the Artive database.

Artive is linked to non-English databases. As an inclusive organisation, Artive promotes national and international use with the inclusion of international databases in many different languages.

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