The Joan of Arc ring, which was temporarily taken out of the UK in March before an export licence was applied for, may not have belonged to the saint. After being taken to France by its new owner without proper documentation, it was quietly returned to London after pressure was exerted by the British authorities. An export licence was then applied for and was quickly granted, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence that the ring had really once belonged to Joan of Arc.
A British company is the latest to launch a labelling system that uses synthetic DNA to help protect works by living artists. Mark Darbyshire, the London framer, and Steve Cooke, the software developer, have created Tagsmart Certify to help combat forgeries. While issues of authenticity dog the market for older works, Cooke says the dynamics of today’s broader landscape—including online channels and emerging markets—heighten the need for immediate authenticity in contemporary art.
“Some artists don’t want to get technical, but they may now just have to be,” he says. Artists who have already endorsed the product—which has 12 security features, including its DNA label—include Mat Collishaw, Idris Khan and Gary Hume, who are among Tagsmart’s founding supporters.
Seven people have been arrested in Spain on suspicion of involvement in the theft of five paintings by Francis Bacon, worth a total of £19m.
The paintings were stolen last July, along with other valuables belonging to the owner, who is reported to have been a close friend of Bacon. The works, which comprise portraits and landscapes, are yet to be recovered.
Detectives said they were approached in February by British private investigators specialising in the recovery of stolen artworks who had received an email with photographs of the paintings and asking whether they were listed as stolen. Investigators analysed the photo and were able to determine that the camera that took the images was owned by a photographic equipment rental company, which supplied details of the customer who had rented it at the time the paintings were photographed.
The customer, who is suspected of involvement in the crime, was among those arrested, along with a Madrid art dealer and his son.