The profession of the art specialist

The expert'role

The expert’s role is to seek the truth; the fine art expert completes tasks in the identification, the valuation and the recognition of art pieces. He makes expert assessments in preparation of the art collection evaluation. He takes inventory on items such as pieces of furniture, paintings, art objects etc. He helps in shares and estates expert assessment, and he is a part of the writing of collection catalogues. As a help for insurers and underwriters, experts do every task related to valuation before writing the insurance policy or after the accident. Experts’ evaluations are always critical after accident (burglary, fire, water damages etc.).

Art experts can practice in their various specialities, including :

  • Silversmithery and goldsmithery
  • Archaeology
  • Ancient weapons
  • Art pieces from Orient and Asia
  • Decorative art from the 20th century
  • Modern and contemporary art
  • Primitive arts
  • Automobiles
  • Jewellery
  • Ceramics, antic porcelain earthenware
  • Drawings Prints and engravings
  • Watchmaking
  • Scientific objects
  • Icons
  • Toys, automaton, dolls
  • Books, manuscripts, and autographs
  • Furniture
  • Music
  • Currency
  • Decorative objects
  • Paintings
  • Photography
  • Sculpture
  • Textiles and carpets
  • Glasswork
  • Fine wines

The expert assessment

The complex profession requires a high ethical standard in accordance with standard practices. Every expert has to be recognized by his peers and provide proof of his trade, years of experiences in his speciality, his accountability and independence. The duty of the expert is “a duty of means and not of results”. The expert does not have to say necessarily if a piece of furniture or an object is genuine or fake, but he does need to use all his skills and resources to complete the investigation. The expert needs to be discreet in his work. He has to use all his senses to examine an object: the connection needs to be physical and the sense of touch is a necessity. A sort of affinity between the expert and the work of art is created. The expert has to go beyond his theoretical knowledge in order to complete the task thoroughly; he has to know how to feel and listen to the object between his hands, to make it talk. The expert’s eye is sharp and scrutinizes the work cautiously. He cannot miss any detail. The expert has to know how to recognize the techniques of the period of construction. A good expert is impassioned by his art. Becoming an art expert requires daily practice. His studies, research, and experience allow him to determine the key elements in the art piece which the expert compares with the examined piece. As a curious man, the expert does not stop learning and improving his skills in order to continue his searches in archives, publications, libraries and museums in France or abroad. The expert cannot trust his first impression; the margin of error is too great. His certainty must be built on his expertise and a systematic analysis of the object. The expert must be cautious with his judgement and remain humble. As the proverb says: “When I doubt, don’t!”. The expert will certify a piece of art only if all the proof guarantees its authenticity. The expert is a man of art, not a scientist.

What is an expert?

Unfortunately, in Europe, the art expert diploma has no precise legal framework. Anyone, from the art advisor, seller, broker or any private individual can call himself an expert without having the required skills and moral code. This is the reason why in France and abroad, professionals in the art field must assemble in organisations, federations, trade unions or chambers. Their main purpose is to designate experienced specialists in order to guarantee the integrity of and the skills required in their field for art sellers, buyers or collectors.

Why call in an authorized expert ?

When the expert delivers a certificate of authenticity (a document with photo, description and measures), he identifies when the object was made, its origins, its condition, and the existence of restoration or transformations. The expert can specify the object value of substitution. It is essential indeed to know the replacement value of your work of art. The purchase price is less important than the current replacement value. Insurance companies will take into account this price in case of accident or theft. The FNEPSA experts are entitled to deliver such certificates. Before the shares or the selling of works of art, it is important to know the authenticity of your objects and their actual value. Furthermore, before purchasing a work of art, it is imperative the object is accompanied with a certificate of authenticity issued by an authorized expert.