The Art Loss Register

Search Form Guidelines

 

Guidelines for searching with the Art Loss Register

These guidelines are for individual search requests submitted via the website or by email

Index

1. The purpose of due diligence searching

1.1. Background to the ALR
1.2 The value of clear provenance
1.3. Searching with the ALR

2. ALR certificates and the search procedure

2.1. The two-fold search procedure
2.2. The wording on an ALR certificate
2.3. The meaning of an ALR certificate
2.4. The client’s responsibility
2.5. The client’s involvement with the art work

3. Submitting a search

3.1. What information to include on a search form
3.2. World War Two provenance
3.3. Limited or erroneous information
3.4. Further research by the ALR
3.5. Refusal to provide a certificate

4. What happens in the event of a match

4.1. The resolution of a claim and recovery of an item

5. Fakes

5.1. The ALR fakes database
5.2. Alerting the client to a fake

 

Guidelines

1. The purpose of due diligence searching

1.1. The Art Loss Register operates a due diligence service to the art trade, collectors, museums, insurers and law enforcement agencies worldwide. The ALR was established in London in 1991 with the backing of the art trade (major shareholders include Sotheby’s and Christie’s) and the insurance industry, with the aim of deterring art theft and reducing the trade in stolen art. The ALR holds the world’s largest private database of stolen, looted and missing art, antiques and collectibles, which includes furniture, jewellery, silverware, watches, books, coins, arms, medals and musical instruments.

1.2. Increasingly, the value of a work of art depends on the ability to demonstrate clear title and evidence of its undisputed ownership since creation. The high incidence of international art theft, not to mention looting during the Second World War, is continuing testament to the fact that many stolen works of art are traded every year.

1.3. The ALR database is available for access by private individuals, insurers, art dealers, museums, auction houses and law enforcement agencies, who can submit search requests via the website (www.artloss.com) or by email to discover whether an item has been registered. Please see the website or ring the office for our fees. Searching with the ALR minimises the chance of acquiring or selling a work of art that has previously been stolen or may be subject to a claim, which could have a substantial impact on its future price and marketability. In effect, due diligence involves the careful risk assessment of an artwork and produces a certificate confirming our findings. Due diligence searching with the ALR offers the best means of defence against any future claims, and for art dealers and auction houses it also acts as a significant deterrence strategy to being approached with stolen art.

2. ALR certificates and the search procedure

2.1. A search with the ALR does not simply involve checking the item against our database to see if it is registered, but it also requires us to examine the provenance of the work in order to establish to the best of our ability whether it may be stolen or subject to a possible claim, based on the information available at that time.

The ALR searches lots in auction house catalogues and stock for dealers under the vetting committees at art and antiques fairs but these searches are conducted under the time limitation of the auction dates and fair openings. If a certificate is required then an additional level of research may be undertaken and a more detailed provenance will be required.

The certificate we issue is valid for three months. Given the range of items in the art trade and the complexities of the international market, some search requests may require detailed professional investigation from a legal and art historical perspective.

2.2. Once a search is complete and all our checks are clear, you will be issued with an ALR certificate which provides details of the item searched and states the following

We certify that this item has not, to the best of our knowledge, been registered as stolen or missing on our database of stolen and missing art, antiques and collectibles nor has a claimant reported this work to us as lost between 1933 and 1945.  It should, however, be noted that:

  • not every loss or theft is reported to us, but our database includes Interpol and other Police losses which have been circulated;
  • the ALR database does not contain information on illegally exported artefacts unless they have been reported to us;
  • the ALR database does not contain information on illegally excavated artefacts unless they have been reported to us; and
  • the ALR does not have details of all works of art confiscated, looted or subjected to a force seizure or forced sale between 1933 and 1945.

It is important for you to note that this Certificate is no indication of the authenticity of the item. 

We do not guarantee the provenance of any item against which we have made a search.  Your search with the ALR demonstrates that you have undertaken a level of due diligence but it may not excuse you from undertaking further research or providing us with additional information in future if appropriate.  Should we become aware of any abuse of this Certificate we may find it necessary to take action.

 2.3. Although ALR certificates only state our basic service, confirming that the item is not recorded on our database, our certificates are generally viewed as a standard of greater due diligence. If they are attached to an item which turns out to be suspect or if the information accompanying the item is manifestly inadequate or misleading, then both the ALR and the party to whom the certificate was issued will be criticised and the value of the certificate system reduced.

2.4. A search with the ALR is considered a minimal level of due diligence and does not excuse any failure on your part to carry out your own research or act in good faith (e.g. by buying a picture in suspicious circumstances).

2.5. By requesting a search with the ALR, we assume that you have a material interest in the work in question, i.e. that you are looking to buy, sell, exhibit or loan it, or have a security interest in it. If we find a match or decide to carry out further research we will contact you to establish your interest in the work and your purpose of searching it. You should not submit searches as test runs or for press purposes. If you would like to know how our search procedure works please call the office rather than submitting a search for a picture in which you have no interest.

3. Submitting a search

3.1. Our certificates are viewed as conferring a certain level of trust, respectability and reputation. In order not to abuse this please adhere to the following guidelines:

a) Please declare all material facts relating to the item: artist, title, medium, dimensions and description, and provide a high-quality image of the front and back if possible. Alternatively, if you are searching antiquities, please provide the civilization instead of artist, and for searches of furniture, watches or jewellery please provide the maker/brand. You may wish to refer to the Object ID checklist, which is an internationally accepted standard for describing art, antiques and antiquities (archives.icom.museum/objectid/).

b) Please provide all known provenance and verify it. For this, we ask you to obtain information from the person selling or consigning the item. Consider the reliability of this information and the ethics of the person providing it. If you are suspicious, please do not use the website, but email or call the office first, so that we can give you advice.

Provenance should be in the form of ‘Private collection/dealer XX, place XX, date of acquisition XX’. Our minimum requirement is one entry on previous or current ownership in this format, although in most cases we will require more. If you provide limited provenance we will ask you to explain why you are unable to give a more detailed and credible history.

c) Please provide all known sale history and verify it. You may have good reasons for wanting to omit facts about recent buyers, sellers or sales (e.g. for security, privacy or commercial reasons). In this case, that information should be provided when the search is initially submitted with a request for omission on the certificate and this will be kept confidential.

d) If you have searched the same item before, please include the past search reference number in your current search request, so that we can compare any research previously undertaken.

e) Consider what further research is possible, e.g. consulting the catalogue raisonné for the artist (if one exists) and relevant literature or reference sources. Please detail whatever research has been undertaken even if it has produced no results, so that we can avoid duplicating it.

The following risk-factors associated with the item should influence the amount of research you do:

  • Artist – an artist whose work was labelled ‘degenerate’ (i.e. modern art) or would have appealed to Nazi looters (e.g. Old Masters, Renaissance, Impressionist, or 18th century French art) is high risk
  • Value – the higher the value, the greater the risk
  • Age – in general, the older the item, the greater the chance of a disputed provenance; a contemporary work coming directly from the artist would be low risk
  • Locations – those with weak law and order, tax havens or countries occupied in World War Two are high risk
  • Number of sales, exhibitions or publications relating to the work or artist – a long exhibition or sales history lowers the risk based on a higher probability of claimants having had a chance to file a claim
  • Purpose of search – exhibition or loan is lower risk, sale or financing is high risk

3.2. We pay particular attention to provenance in the period 1933-45 as we will investigate whether the item may have been confiscated, looted or subjected to a forced seizure or forced sale during this time. An ownership history that includes red flag names (Nazi collaborators or victims) will be investigated in more detail to establish the nature of item’s acquisition or sale. As a result, searches with World War Two provenance are likely to take longer to process, and we ask for your patience.

3.3. Searches with insufficient provenance or erroneous information are also likely to take longer to process, as we will need to undertake further research to obtain correct and complete information.

3.4. Should the ALR need to undertake a significant amount of further research in order to complete the search, we reserve the right to charge an additional minimum fee of £250 with your consent, and we will provide an estimate of the cost of any additional work and the time scale. You should be aware that additional research may not be conclusive and we still may not be able to issue a certificate, but if this is the case we will explain the issue and provide an opinion on the level of risk which may be remote.

3.5. The ALR reserve the right to refuse to provide a certificate if we are not satisfied with a clear and undisputed ownership history due to a lack of information available at the time or a client’s refusal to pay additional research fees, even if the item is not registered on our database. Alternatively, in some rare cases we may issue a certificate with a caveat clause indicating a period of risk that requires further research.

4. What Happens in the event of a match

4.1. In the event that an item searched is confirmed as an object on the ALR database or subject to a legitimate claim, our contract requires you to co-operate in the restoration of the item to its rightful owner or in the resolution of any claim. We will usually ask you to hold the item in your possession until a settlement has been agreed. The ALR will be involved in the resolution of the case and operates a mediation service to return works of art to their rightful owners, which may include negotiating compensation to the victims of art theft and/or to the current holder as the final ownership is determined.

5. Authentication Issues

5.1. Problems of authentication are becoming an increasing concern within the art market and in recognition of this, the ALR has developed a database of authentication issues, which many experts use and contribute to.

5.2. In the event that a work searched against the ALR database is matched with an item believed not to be genuine the searcher will be alerted. The ALR does not give any final determination that the item searched is a fake or is falsely attributed, but suggests that further research may be advisable.

 

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