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New Artwork Will be Tagged with Artist's DNA ?

  • DNA_lab courtesy of ikmb
  • Examination of the Artwork
October 12, 2015
Web journalist, coffee junkie and art fanatic. Cares about the environment, writes for Widewalls. Alias of Milica Jovic

Fake artworks are a nightmare for every art collector, but also a lucrative source of income for those in the foraging “business”. It is believed that two out of five artworks sold at the art market today, are fake. Some forgeries appear so authentic, that a whole team of investigators is needed to discover the fraud. But a group of geneticists has decided to put a stop to this! Scientists from the University of Albany have come up with the concept of tagging new artworks with the artist’s DNA. The new technology is about to change the method of art verification from the core.

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Fake Damien Hirst’s Spin Painting and Dots1

Art Tagged with DNA

In order to battle counterfeiting, the scientist are planning to attach a label, containing artists’ DNA to their original works which will make authentication quick and easy. The DNA will be added at the molecular level to insure that it stays on the artwork even if the label is removed or destroyed. Each artwork will be tagged with the different code and labels are expected to cost around 150 $. Researchers will use a scanner to read the tag and compare the piece with the database of original works. If the label is missing, genetics will have to swab the artwork to find the DNA particles, left by the label. This way art pieces can be verified in seconds and beyond any doubt. The initiative is launched by an art insurance firm Aris, that is financing the research at Global Centre of Innovation for the i2M Standards, based at the University of Albany, New York. According to the center, artists Chuck Close, Joseph Cohen and Turner Prize nominees Jane and Louise Wilson will be one of the first to adopt “DNA tagged art”.

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Artist Chuck Close Will be one of the First to Try DNA Tagging

Forgery in the Art World

According to the Daily Mail, fake artworks are damaging the art industry by 38 billion pounds every year, and the successful forgers can earn millions by selling their fakes on the art market. Artworks by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali for instance, are a common target of forgers all over the globe. Recently, works by Damien Hirst were also falsified and then sold for high sums. Back in 2010, Wolfgang Fischer, a.k.a. Wolfgang Beltracchi, was arrested for forging 36 paintings that were sold for whooping 45 million dollars. The artist confessed to falsifying works by Max Ernst, Fernand Léger and Kees van Dongen and was sentenced to six years imprisonment.

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Wolfgang Belltracchi

New Technologies and the Verification of Authenticity

The development of new technologies has made counterfeiting easier than ever. In a conversation with The Times, chairman of Aris, Lawrence Shindell said that fraudsters can “make brilliant fakes” with the use of 3D printing, and added that, “It’s so much easier and so much less expensive for forgers to fake art today.” The forgeries are becoming so good, that even works that were verified by experts can no longer be trusted and legal proceedings have recently led to the disbandment of several authentication boards. One of the most renowned experts on forgery, Martin Kemp also claims that: “The state of authentication at the moment is one of complete chaos. It’s something of a scandal in the art world.” Hopefully new DNA labels can establish order in the verification section and determine for certain what’s real and what’s fake.

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Featured images : Science Lab, courtesy of ikmb and Examination of the Artwork

Images for illustrative purposes only