Art authentication

One year later: a letter from the Tagsmart team

Today we celebrate the one year anniversary of Tagsmart Certify. In that past year, we have made a commitment to continue to advance our authentication solutions so as to establish a new standard for authenticity in art and we’re pleased to say that we have achieved enormous goals in the last 12 months.

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Consciuous of the art market’s needs and lack of regulation, transparency and standards, we have produced stellar first-to-market advances. In April 2016, we proudly introduced to the industry its first all-round complete art authentication solutions. Our DNA Smart Tags for paper works, paired with a unique system for issuing secure Certificate of Authenticity, enabled for the first time artists, galleries and estates to assure the genuineness of their works and protect themselves and collectors against fakes, forgeries and misattributions.

Some months later, our Smart Tag for aluminium works was added to the Tagsmart solution, making it the first standalone secure genetic “stamp” to identify, seal and verify the authenticity of aluminium based works such as photographs. By this time, we have also provided artists with a means to issue secure Retrospective Certificates of Authenticity for works already sold which lacked this crucial document to guarantee its authenticity and generate its accredited ownership history.

Today, as a way to celebrate one year since the launch Tagsmart Certify, we are thrilled to announce the release of our most advanced solution, the Smart Tag for canvas works. A groundbreaking resource for the art world, our new Smart Tag will now empower artists, galleries and estates to set right issues of credibility and trust and offer protection to a larger segment of the market.

Inspiringly, our hard work and product innovation have been greatly noticed by art market in the past 12 months. Always at the forefront of all our activities, our focus on providing an outstanding solution and our dedication to our customers has proved instrumental to our success. In our first year, we have signed up hundreds of artists, including contemporary masters like Marc Quinn, Chris Levine, Mario Testino, Idris Khan and Deborah Azzopardi, as well as some of the most talented emerging figures such as Dan Hillier, Martin Yeoman and Bambi. We also had the pleasure of partnering with influential galleries such as Art Republic, the Mall Galleries, Beers London and Joseph Fine Art, and awe-inspiring estates like The Guirado Estate and The Ken Howard Foundation. Our deepest thanks to all of you, who’ve given us invaluable assistance and feedback throughout this period.

Tagsmart has also caught a lot of interest from the media. We are extremely proud to have been featured in some of UK’s biggest news outlets such as the BBC, the Sunday Times, Sky News and Reuters, as well as in art magazines and portals such as The Art Newspaper, Artsy, artdaily.org and State F22. We were equally delighted with the outstanding response we had in events such as The Other Art Fair, Art16, The Art Business Conference and the London Art Fair, motivating us to continue to develop solutions in a way that is innovative, reliable and with high quality.

None of this would have been possible without the exceptional guidance of our Advisory Board, which features world-renowned art collector Robert Suss as well as some of the world’s leading superheroes in the fine arts and materials science: Dr Matthew Baker, Mike Triggs, Dr Carinna Parraman, Professor John Watts, Dr Melanie Bailey, Graham Bignell, Professor Bill Redman-White, Joanne Wilson, Aino-Leena Grapin, Amy Todd Middleton, Colette Loll and Mike Adam. Thank you for your support and encouragement, always.

As we step into another year, we would like to share with you the marking of a year of Tagsmart Certify and the accomplishment of significant milestones, culminating with the launch of our new Smart Tag for works on canvas. 

But most importantly, we would like to say our most since ‘thank you’, after all this celebration is also yours.

– Tagsmart Team

Introducing Tagsmart’s Advisory Board

Tagsmart is honoured to introduce its Advisory Board comprising some of the world’s leading experts in the fields of arts and science. Its purpose is to assist Tagsmart in meeting its mission by sharing insights and knowledge on the art market needs and trends, as well as contributing to the latest scientific developments and applicable research.


We are proud to be supported by Dr Matthew Baker, Mike Triggs, Dr Carinna Parraman, Professor John Watts, Dr Melanie Bailey, Graham Bignell, Professor Bill Redman-White, Joanne Wilson, Aino-Leena Grapin, Amy Todd Middleton, Colette Loll and Mike Adam and grateful for their crucial insights and distinctive expert advice.

This dedicated trusted group of individuals shapes our business and is vital to our performance and engagement, ensuring our overall success in establishing a new standard for authenticity in art.

For more information, please visit www.tagsmart.com/about-us.

Alleged fake work of eminent Vietnamese painter auctioned for US$102,000

Shortly after coming under the hammer for US$102,000 during a charitable auction in Ho Chi Minh City last week, Hanoi Old Quarter, a painting claimed to be by famous Vietnamese late painter Bui Xuan Phai has been called out as a counterfeit work.

Phai’s son Bui Thanh Phuong was among the most vocal accusers, saying his father had never painted such a work. “There are only five or six art collectors in Vietnam, so who is keeping whose paintings is a shared knowledge. There is no way a painting by my father that nobody including me has ever heard of just appears out of nowhere,” Phuong claimed.

Bui Quoc Chi, owner of Duc Minh Gallery which had put the painting up for auction, affirmed that the painting was authentic. “I will take full responsibility before the organisers [of the auction],” Chi said.

Despite Chi’s reassurance, many Vietnamese artists have weighed in their opinion on the matter with suspicion.“It does not take Bui Thanh Phuong’s words to know that the painting is a fake, as anybody who has decent knowledge in the field can tell apart the differences,” painter Nguyen Thanh Binh commented.

Binh’s comment was echoed by many other experts in the field, as they all found the painting lacking a sense of Phai-ness.

Their suspicion is founded, as Phai is perhaps the most copied artist in Vietnam, to the point that there’s a saying among insiders that goes “Phai paints more when he’s dead than alive”.

New law to root out counterfeit artwork in Korea

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced Thursday that it will legislate a new law regarding artwork distribution in an effort to root out the distribution of counterfeit works, recover public trust in Korea’s art market, and establish a healthy trading platform for creative crafts. The law will be implemented in August 2017.

The new law will divide art distribution into three major categories: art galleries, which will be subject to a registration system; art auctions, to a permit system; and other sales of artworks, to a reporting system.

Currently, art galleries or art auction houses can operate with only a business license, and without official registration or approval, which led to criticism that they lacked transparency and engaged in unfair practices in their art distribution process.

With the new law, however, art galleries will have to submit plans to prevent counterfeit artworks as well as a list of all of their affiliate artists. Auction firms will also have to provide counterfeit prevention measures, while possessing certain qualifications including at least 200 million won in capital, an official auctioneer, and an auction house.

Furthermore, artwork distributors will be obliged to maintain records for each of their artworks, and issue an official warranty when they’re sold. Failure to do so will also be result in fines and cancelled business licenses.

The law will implement stronger punishment for counterfeit crimes as well, by stipulating that these types of crimes be punishable by up to five years in prison or 50 million won in fines. The ministry will also consider the potential implementation of special judicial police specific to artwork fraud.

Meanwhile, the ministry is to establish a national body for artwork authentication, which will function as the official agency responsible for developing new authentication technology and professionals in related fields.

“The institute will be operated not as a government agency but as a public one, and will help improve Korea’s art authentication technology, as well as aiding with crimes, investigations, and trials related to counterfeit artwork,” said Jung. “It will be staffed by professional researchers and appraisers.”

The full details of the law are to be revealed in the first half of 2017.

French firm to authenticate controversial Korean painting

Chun Kyung-ja was one of the most prominent female painters in Korea’s modern art history. She is best known for her portrayal of women and flowers, as shown in her controversial painting Beautiful Woman.

The controversy began in 1991 when Chun claimed that a painting attributed to her, which was (and has since been) on display at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), was a fake. An authentication process soon followed, but eventually the museum and the Galleries Association of Korea (GAK) announced that the work was legitimate.

Unconvinced and full of despair, Chun donated 93 of her works and left Korea for the United States in 1998, never to return. During the entire period of her exile to the U.S. up until her death in 2015, Chun never painted again.

But the authenticity dispute resurfaced with media coverage of Chun’s later years and the controversial painting, with Chun’s remaining family members and their team of lawyers filing a lawsuit in April against MMCA officials claiming that the museum had declared a counterfeit painting as a genuine one.

The lawyers have since demanded that an outside institution with no relationship to the MMCA or the GAK carry out an authentication process for impartiality, which is when the French art technology firm Lumiere Technology stepped in.

The authentication team from the French company arrived in Korea Tuesday, according to the Prosecutors’ Office, and has since been carrying out its authentication procedure using the company’s self-pioneered technique called Layer Amplification Method; the same method the company used to analyze the Mona Lisa and discover a hidden portrait under the iconic Da Vinci painting.

The method will analyse the controversial painting for its various elements, such as brush stroke, paints, and the order of workflow, and compare it to other works by Chun for a comparative analysis. According to the prosecutors, the process is expected to wrap up by the end of the month.

Prosecutors will be piecing together all the corroborative evidence, including the final verdict from Lumiere Technology, to determine the authenticity of Beautiful Woman, and officials are hopeful that the decades-long dispute will finally be settled.

#TagsmartTips for TOAF artists

Hi there! As The Other Art Fair approaches, we at Tagsmart thought we could give you a hand. We know how overwhelming an art fair can be, so we’ve created this handy checklist to help you make sure you don’t forget anything:

1. Photograph all your artworks and ensure you have the best quality digital copies saved.

2. Create your artwork records on the Tagsmart Certify platform: guarantee the authenticity of your artworks, create your online catalogue which can be viewed and shared on social media or via email, and ensure you will be able to issue secure Tagsmart Certificates of Authenticity for your buyers at the fair. Not a Tagsmart Certify artist yet? Register now!

3. Set all prices set and have cheaper priced artworks for those who cannot purchase the more expensive pieces. Don’t forget to bring along some red dot stickers to indicate an artwork has already been sold.

4. Let our team know if you need any Tagsmart Certify materials. Do you need Smart Tags for your artworks? Order them now! How about some promo materials? Just get in touch and we can send you sample Certificates of Authenticity and ‘Tagsmart Registered’ wall stickers.

5. Don’t forget your business cards to be given to your buyers and people who show an interest in your work. How about sending a newsletter to your collectors too?

6. Package and transport the artworks with special care and create label cards to be included alongside the artworks.

7. When setting up the exhibition space, imagine how visitors will interact with your artworks. Which piece will they see first? Try to plan ahead what will be replacing the sold artworks.

8. Take pictures! This is a moment you will want to remember for years to come!

Good luck, have fun and enjoy yourself!

Artist Jogen Chowdhury collects his counterfeit works & labels them ‘fake’

Different artists have different ways of dealing with counterfeits of their works. Jogen Chowdhury simply collects them, strikes them out with ink and writes the word ‘fake’ on them. “I have more than 18 fake paintings of my work with me,” the 77-year-old Chowdhury says. “When people come for authentication of my work and it’s not authentic, I then tell them so. I keep the work and tell them to ask the people they procured the work from to meet me. They never come.”

Another Chun Kyung-ja painting suspected of forgery

A series of travel sketches of the late artist Chun Kyung-ja, submitted for Seoul Auction’s summer auction on June 29, was suspected of being counterfeit and pulled from the auction soon after. An art critic claimed that the sketches pieced together artworks in Chun’s catalogue published in 1995 titled “CHUN, KYUNG JA.”

Chun’s “Travel sketches” was composed of 16 drawings with an autograph letter. The auction explained that Chun gifted the sketches to an acquaintance named Mr. Park in 1983, in celebration of his 50th birthday.

An anonymous art critic told Yonhap News Sunday that the sketches are similar to multiple paintings and sketches in the catalogue, mainly created during Chun’s travels.

Artist Lee Woo-hwan in trouble for 'verified' fake paintings

“In 1978 and 1979, I drew 30 to 40 pieces a day at maximum. Many exhibited works were not even included in the work book. I used to sell my painting to a gallery, but sometimes I did not receive any money and the paintings were missing. Frequently, I left space for a signature or a registration number empty for the gallery to fill in.”

This is what Lee Woo-hwan said in a press conference on Thursday. Lee has been caught up in controversy on whether his paintings are genuine, while some wonder “why him among others?”

In the late 1970s when Lee became famous and demand for his paintings surged, he had to mass-produce hundreds of paintings within two years. Naturally, the mass production left loopholes, which was an attractive target to forgers.

Master forger Geert Jan Jansen presents own exhibition

The Dutch painter Geert Jan Jansen has just opened his new exhibition in List, Germany. Although this time the works on display are modelled after original masterpieces, they are not regarded as a forgery as they are signed by the artist with his own name. Some of the 135 exhibits are also his own work.

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The 72-year-old is well-known in the art world for his copying skills and is considered the “master forger of the century”. Jansen has forged works of over 40 different artists, including Pablo Picasso, Juan Miró, Paul Gauguin and Marc Chagall. He not only has copied artworks of these artists, but also used their individual artistic language to create original pieces and sign it their names. 

Jansen was arrested in 1994 in France, when over 1,500 artworks were seized. He was held in detention for six months, but was acquitted for lack of evidence. 

The exhibition runs until July 3rd.