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Art authentication: reducing the potential for conflict

Written on 11th Mar 2014, by Andrew Gilbert

Art forgery remains a significant problem and whilst the scientific methods for investigating and authenticating artworks have moved on a great deal in recent decades, the process remains difficult, laborious and expensive.

This creates inevitable conflicts. For example the recent case involving the Keith Haring Foundation has shown how the tension between the need for authentication and the means of providing it can lead to significant disputes between ‘owners’.

The art market often creates a complicated landscape in which authentication needs to take place. Artists and estates can often have completely different attitudes and motivations to collectors or galleries when it comes to authentication and as a result, the discovery of a forgery can be hugely traumatic to one side of any deal.

Current best practice within the industry lacks a layer of ‘impartial’ security that ensures that once a piece has been definitively authenticated it can be securely, easily and unambiguously verified and tracked whenever a sale takes place.

New technology holds the key to solving this problem. Traditional overt anti-counterfeiting technology – like barcodes, holograms or even security inks – cannot be applied to artworks without damaging the pieces themselves.

But new covert technologies, like LSA, can offer significant benefits to all of the players in the industry – from artists, to dealers, to collectors. It could even offer for the first time the ability to put anti-counterfeiting measures in place at source – ensuring that new artworks are scanned by the artist when produced, enabling them to be verified throughout their life.

These are potentially powerful new tools that the art industry has never had access to before in the fight against counterfeits and forgeries and shows how new technologies can provide a significant benefit to even the most traditional of markets.