Is provenance a big deal in the New Zealand art world?
In terms of the market, I can't think of many examples where the name of the previous owner might increase the perceived value of an artwork to a private buyer. Charles Brasch, Ron O'Reilly, Jim Barr and Mary Barr?
I do think provenance becomes more interesting in terms of public collections. In this context information is captured about the way artworks have circulated in New Zealand - through gift, sale, bequest and wheeler-dealing - and then is presented publicly that as part of a work's history & importance. It becomes art history.
I started thinking about this this morning because of this post about provenance research on the IMA blog. It looks at the provenance of one of the IMA's key works, van Gogh's
Landscape at Saint-Rémy (Enclosed Field with Peasant) . The early history of the work is well documented, but the record gets scanty in the mid 20th century, putting the work under the cloud of Nazi-era looting,
All is well with the IMA's van Gogh; curator Annette Schlagenhauff found papers in the New York Public Library showing the work came to America in the private owner's hands. However, the blog post brought my attention to a part of the IMA site that I haven't seen before: the World War II-Era Provenance research project. The section lists European paintings "created before 1946 and acquired after 1932", and also contains info on how to read provenance texts.
Like their deaccessioning database, putting this provenance research onto their website brings transparency to the inner workings of the institution, but also makes them interesting. It's things like this that make me an IMA fangirl.