Works of art to be tagged with DNA in bid to fight forgeries

Eric Fischl among the artists to support authentication system launched in London this week

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Fakes and forgeries, the scourge of the art market, could become a thing of the past thanks to a new authentication system launched in London on Monday, 12 October. The Global Center of Innovation for i2M Standards at the University at Albany has developed a way of marking works of art with a synthetic DNA label unique to each object. The microscopic tag can then be scanned to verify a work, which is linked to a protected database.

Two dozen artists, archives and museums have already signed up to the initiative, including Eric Fischl, the US-based Philip Halsam archives and the Brüke Museum in Berlin. The first round of works are due to be treated in the next few weeks. Primary and secondary market objects that have been authenticated can both be protected, although there is a push to work with the “next generation” of artists, according to a spokesman for the project, who notes that up to 40% of works sold are estimated to be fake.

The introduction of the DNA tag, which has taken two years to develop and will cost around $150 each, is part of a drive to establish industry-wide standards on authentication. It is hoped other technologies and solutions will be created to those standards, dubbed i2M Standards, which will help combat forgeries.

“There is no universal standard that governs how a work should be identified, no solution that can authenticate a previously unidentified work with any degree of certainty and therefore no mechanism to prevent the reintroduction of faked and forged objects back onto the market,” says Lawrence Shindell, the chairman of ARIS Title Insurance Corporation, which has contributed $2m to the project. “The i2M Standards represent an international, cross-industry solution designed to solve art’s great challenges caused by fakery and fraud.”

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