Can DNA help combat art forgery?

A new authentication system that would let artists sign their work with a unique, synthetic DNA tag has been developed, and it is receiving support from prominent artists and galleries.

The research has been led by the Global Center for Innovation, at the State University of Albany in New York. With financial support from the insurers Aris, they have developed  i2M,  a “new standards based technology designed to offer an industry-wide solution to the challenge of faked, forged and stolen art”.

It has been developed in reaction to a number of recent forgery scandals that have worried the art world, and also in response to the arrival of 3-D technology that has the potential to make faking art much easier.

Experts estimate that as many as two in five works sold are fakes. The Times quotes Martin Kemp, emeritus professor of art history at the University of Oxford and an authority on forgery as saying: “The state of authentication at the moment is one of complete chaos. It’s something of a scandal in the art world.”

The new tagging technology works by introducing molecular-level markers to the surface of artworks, which will then provide information about the work that is then linked to a database. The information will be accessible – through a handheld scanning smart phone app – to the artist’s studio and those who they authorize.

The labels have been created to use on both new artworks and works that have been verified by experts as authentic. Each label has an initial price-tag of about £100.

Various institutions and artists have lent their support to the new technology, including Eric Fischl, Chuck Close and David Salle.

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