Search


Submit a search against the Art Loss Register (ALR) database to determine whether an item has been reported stolen, missing or looted. This will minimise your risk of buying or selling an item that has previously been stolen, as a demonstration of due diligence, and an important step in the transfer of good title. Once we have checked and cleared an item you may receive an ALR Certificate stating that it is not registered on the ALR database and we are not aware of other possible claims.

The benefits of searching the ALR database are twofold:

  • To the purchaser, a search minimises the chance of acquiring a work of art which has been stolen. Alternatively there may be some question concerning its past ownership, or research might bring new information to light about the item – both of which could have a substantial impact on its future value and marketability.
  • To the vendor, a search not only minimises the chance of acquiring or dealing in stolen items, but also may uncover further provenance or documentation for the item, and acts as an encouragement to buyers to know that they are acquiring the work with good title.

Given the range of items traded and the complexities of an international market, all search requests require detailed professional investigation and are carried out by the ALR’s trained art experts.

The process starts with your completion of the online search form and wherever possible the attachment of a clear photographic image. Following payment of the search fee a comparison with the 700,000+ items on the database will then be carried out. The search fee is due even if a certificate cannot be issued, and the ALR reserves the right not to issue a certificate if, in its sole judgment, it believes that it is not appropriate to do so.

Please note that in order for us to issue an ALR Certificate for a searched item, we require a minimum provenance of at least the current ownership, to include details of the type of collection (e.g. private collection, dealer, museum), its location and date of acquisition. Please provide any earlier provenance wherever possible. Some high-risk items, such as artworks created prior to World War Two or antiquities, may require more than the minimum provenance outlined above. Please note that in those cases where minimum provenance is not provided or insufficient information is given for high-risk items, the ALR will not be able to issue a certificate. 

This process takes a minimum of 3 to 5 working days, although more time will be required for items that necessitate further research, such as works at high risk of having been looted during the period 1933-45 or antiquities.

In order to maintain their value to the Art Trade it is essential that ALR certificates are not issued on the basis of incomplete or inadequately researched information. Therefore if any further information is needed or additional research required the ALR will notify the searcher of what is believed to be necessary and inform them of any further costs that might be incurred in carrying out such research.

You may submit a search by clicking the ‘Start a new search’ button at the bottom of this page, or log in to the ‘My Account’ area.

The fee for a single search is £70, €80 or $95 (plus VAT). Alternatively, you can buy a subscription up to 10 searches in a year, which is £450, €500 or $550; or a subscription up to 25 searches in a year, which is £600, €700 or $800 (both plus VAT where applicable).

We also offer subscriptions to auction houses and art fairs for searches of hundreds or thousands of objects each year.

If you require an urgent search of the ALR’s database then please contact the ALR via [email protected] or on +44 (0)20 7841 5780. If all necessary information is provided and no further detailed provenance research is required a response can be given to an urgent search within one working day, or same day if possible. An urgent search will cost £300, €340 or $400 (plus VAT where applicable).

We not only conduct an internal check of our own database – which includes the Interpol database – but also other specialist databases, archives and resources, including six external databases relating to the period 1933-45. Further research is then conducted by the ALR’s specialist team depending on the type of object and its provenance.

If you have any questions about what specific resources are checked before an ALR Certificate is issued we would be very happy to provide you with more information if you contact us directly.

Yes. As well as the information that we require for all other types of item, there is a minimum requirement for provenance prior to 2000. For further information, and for guidelines as to how to submit searches of antiquities, tribal and Asian art, see our dedicated page.

Yes. So long as we have the minimum requirements for current ownership, we can still search it. It may take a little longer than normal if there is no known provenance, but we will also let you know if we uncover any during the course of our research.

Provided that the information we need is given to us, we would usually expect to be able to issue a certificate if the item does not match with an item on our database, or if no potential problem is indicated in the provenance. There are exceptions to this though and sometimes it is not possible to issue a certificate and it is not guaranteed. The most common reason for the latter is if you are unable to provide requested information or documentation regarding the item’s provenance.

We carry out more than 400,000 checks on items on the market each year. This is on behalf of subscribing auction houses and art fairs, as well as law enforcement, museums, dealers, banks, lenders, lawyers, art advisors, pawnbrokers and private collectors.

See also:

Checking stolen art databases is an important part of due diligence when buying, selling or loaning against art and antiques. For more than 30 years, the ALR has been working with police, insurers and victims of theft to provide a global service in recording stolen and disputed art and antiques, and therefore we provide as up-to-date database for these losses as possible. Furthermore, we check additional databases and resources as part of our research, to ensure as complete a check as time allows.

Unfortunately, no database of stolen art, antiques and collectables can be complete, but an ALR Certificate will provide an important defence and demonstration of due diligence as part of a holder’s good faith should any claim be brought forward for an object.

There is an important distinction between the services that we provide for auction house catalogues and as part of vetting at art fairs on the one hand, and an ALR certificate on the other.

  • The service for the auction house catalogues and at art fairs is a check against the ALR database. Further research is conducted if there may be an issue arising from the database check, or that is immediately apparent from the provenance. When this check is complete, we move on to the next object in the catalogue or at the fair, and no confirmation is issued for an individual item. This service is therefore to minimise the risk that the object is reported as stolen or subject to a dispute on the ALR database, but does not include the additional database checks and research that are incorporated into those for an ALR Certificate. You can find a list of these auction house subscribers and art fairs on our website, although bear in mind that not every object at all these subscribers have been checked.
  • For an ALR Certificate, we carry out the checks mentioned above, as well as checks of other databases and archives (e.g. those relating to the period 1933-45). Further research is then conducted by the ALR’s specialist team depending on the type of object and its provenance. For example, if there are gaps in the provenance of the object in the period 1933-45, the ALR’s specialist Provenance Research team may well have checked some resources available in case there might be further information yet to be brought to light for this period. Additionally, for antiquities, we may have requested and been provided with evidence to support the provenance of an object. This is to ensure that the ALR Certificate can be recognised as an important part of due diligence – but you should always ask the owner to provide you with further supporting evidence and documentation for their due diligence.

If you have any questions about what specific resources are checked before an ALR Certificate is issued we would be very happy to provide you with more information if you contact us directly.

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.

You can see the Terms & Conditions here. If you have any further questions, please contact us directly.