The British Antique Dealers’ Association is to issue provenance certificates for items sold by members as from this week.
It is the first in what is expected to be a major series of changes aimed at modernising the BADA as a proactive 21st century trade association.
Other measures also announced include opening up membership to overseas trade - by invitation only - and to dealers in Contemporary fine and applied works of art, all of whom would be able to apply to take a stand at the BADA fair in London - a change that necessitates the removal of datelines at the fair.
Further initiatives are also on the agenda but have yet to be finalised.
BADA chairman Michael Cohen, who has been driving the debate on change in tandem with secretary general Mark Dodgson, stressed that there would be no watering down of standards. The association would not be easier to join, he told ATG, but he did want to make it "more approachable". And he said that membership qualification would still be ruled by what he called the four Es: Expertise, Experience, Ethics and Excellence.
"We must feel absolutely confident that you know what you are selling and that your stock and knowledge is of the highest level of trading in your field," he said.
The certificates, aimed at boosting confidence between its members and the public, will establish a lasting provenance at the point of sale from BADA members. Individual items will not be vetted, nor do the certificates guarantee authenticity, but they will be registered permanently on a central BADA database.
The idea is that the certificate will then accompany the item automatically when it is resold.
Attraction for Buyers
"Once an object is shown to have passed through the hands of a BADA dealer, it will undoubtedly be better regarded in the marketplace at large," said a spokesman.
Mr Cohen argues that the process will not only make objects more attractive to buyers, it will also add value to being a BADA member.
He sets out his wider vision for the BADA in a letter published in this week's ATG printed newspaper, explaining the contribution his members make to the global market. Now he wants them to help promote the association further, both for its and their own benefit, and to help remove any doubt about its credentials as a forward-thinking body providing essential services to members and the public.
Mr Cohen, who has cut the number of BADA council meetings in favour of focused working groups working towards specific goals, is also working on what he calls a "softer approach" towards membership applicants who are not deemed ready to join.
"In the past a lot of members were rejected first time round and then did not have the confidence to reapply often for years afterwards when they were indeed ready," he said. "Now, if someone applies and isn't ready, we'll talk about their potential and give guidance. We want to let them know that they are on the right road, not knock them off it.
"The association is keen that those who apply for membership and are rejected are not put off applying in the future and we will do our best to try and make the process less daunting, whilst still ensuring that standards are upheld."
Membership of BADA for overseas dealers is by invitation only and the association has a procedure for pre-assessing a limited number of potential members, prior to approaching them.
Although in the UK the procedure of dealers applying for membership remains unchanged, it is possible that in the future BADA will also invite certain UK-based dealers to become members, but as with overseas dealers, only once assessment reports about them have been obtained.
"We want to make the BADA an association that's fit for its members. It needs to be known globally, and people need to know what it stands for: it's the association for the top dealers, and by members pushing the association in this way, they will also be helping themselves."
With a number of key initiatives still at the planning stage, he is keen to remain as chairman for some time to come, especially as he notes a wider appetite among members for change.
"We are working on a lot of ideas, and that's something I'd like to see through," he said.