The announcement of an interesting auction linked to the band Radiohead reminds me that what is known as provenance is a vital part of the world in which we live and work. Essentially, it is the recorded history of an artwork or object.
Why is it important? Because it is vital that anyone consigning something to auction has the right to do so. In other words, they must either be the owner or ‘title-holder’ themselves, or have authority from the person or body that is to put it up for sale.
Often this can be very hard to prove; how many of us have purchase receipts for family heirlooms that great aunt Violet passed on when she died twenty years ago? Perhaps you have a photo from years gone by that includes the object in question, showing it to have been in her possession.
In the case of Radiohead, up for auction is an A2 sketchpad left behind in a barn at a fruit farm in Oxfordshire in 1993, when the band was working on their seminal album The Bends, which was released two years later.
The consignor turns out to be the man who had been sent in to clear out the barn after they left, having lent them instruments and a PA sound system earlier.
Vitally, as he told Sky News: “I was informed that anything remaining in the room was not required by the band and should be thrown away or kept by me if I so wished. I kept the sketchpad and discarded the carpeting.”