Provenance

Tagsmart stars alongside Mat Collishaw on BBC 4Tech

Watched by 25 million viewers in the Middle East and North Africa, BBC Arabic’s weekly 4Tech programme discusses technology, innovation and cyberspace.

Invited to take part in this week’s episode, Tagsmart demonstrated its unique triple-lock solution directly from Mat Collishaw’s studio. Our Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer Steve Cooke introduced our technology by tagging Collishaw’s Insecticide 28 print. 

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Tagsmart has developed a unique, secure genetic “stamp” to identify, seal and verify the authenticity of artworks. Following an extensive collaboration between leading artists, surface chemists and conservators, every component of the Tag is part of a complex web of security measures, using revolutionary label technology featuring the latest synthetic DNA taggants and inorganic compounds.

Each Tag has its own unique reference number, linked to the artwork’s secure Certificate of Authenticity and its online Provenance Record.

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Alongside presenter Anees Alqudaihi, Collishaw also talked about his exhibition Thresholds, using the latest in VR technology. 

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Thresholds is a fully immersive portal to the past, restaging one of the earliest exhibitions of photography in 1839, when William Henry Fox Talbot first presented his photographic prints to the public at King Edward’s School, Birmingham.

Presented in London and Birmingham, the show is now relocating to Lacock Abbey, in Wiltshire, where it will open on September 16.

Watch the complete episode here.

Great photos come with great provenance

We are delighted to announce Iconic Images will now be using Tagsmart DNA Tags specifically designed for photographic papers and mounted works and Certificates of Authenticity as a guarantee of authenticity and provenance.

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Robin Morgan, Iconic Images’ CEO and Creative Director explains: “The art market has traditionally been vulnerable to forgeries and lawsuits: Tagsmart presents a sea of change in the industry, offering a robust and fail-safe mechanism to verify art and photography. It is great news for us, and great news for collectors.” 

Representing some of the world’s most celebrated photographers, Iconic Images will introduce this innovation by tagging two of Terry O'Neill’s most famous images – Frank Sinatra on the Board Walk and Brigitte Bardot with a cigar in her mouth.

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By using Tagsmart’s triple lock solution to seal the authenticity of artworks, Iconic Images and Terry O'Neill can also control their limited editions works, protect collectors, their names and reputation against fakes and forgeries and complement their existing digital protection. 

According to legendary photographer Terry O’Neill, “Tagsmart’s authentication solution reassures collectors that the work they are buying is authentic and its value will be protected.” 

It’s here! Meet our new Smart Tag for canvas works!

Just a year after the launch of Tagsmart Certify, a new standard for authenticity in art, we proudly present our new Smart Tag for canvas works, the latest addition to our family of tags designed for the mediums you love.

The problem of fakes and forgeries continues to plague the art market. Tagsmart’s new Smart Tag is a powerful countermeasure, which will offer protection to a larger segment of the market. I am encouraged by the innovation which is setting a new standard in authentication.“ – Colette Loll, Art Fraud Insights

The Smart Tag for canvas is archival and features the latest synthetic DNA and security elements. Its pioneering design allows for a quick and easy application and renders the Smart Tag flexible and free to bend, roll and expand/shrink with the natural movements of the canvas. Following conservation best practices, the Smart Tag fragments with any attempt to transfer or remove it, making it unable for reuse.

I believe this Smart Tag for canvas works will become a fundamental rule of thumb in protecting and securing artworks. This tag will revolutionise the art market, giving artists the opportunity to safeguard their highest valued works.“ – Deborah Azzopardi

Register now to order your Smart Tags for canvas, paper or aluminium works.

5 tips for safeguarding your art

How to avoid being a victim of art theft according to Detective Don Hrycyk, LAPD Art Theft Detail.

1. Know what you have. “Have it authenticated and appraised. Just because your grandmother says it’s a Ming vase doesn’t mean that it really is.”

2. Get it photographed. “It’s amazing how many people lose a $50,000 painting and all they can show us is an old Thanksgiving photo with the family standing in front of a very blurry painting.” Hrycyk also recommends photographing the back of the artwork “because it’s like a birthmark that can positively identify an artwork.”

3. Have a good written description of the artwork. “And if it’s a print, not the number so we can identify it from other prints.”

4. Add you own mark. “Add something to the artwork in a non-destructive manner.” How about a Tagsmart Smart tag? ;)

5. If it’s insured, make sure you have a buyback provision in your policy. “If we recover a valuable artwork 10 years after it was stolen, it’s only going to be more valuable at that time. And if you’ve since filed a claim with your insurance company, you want to be sure that you can return the money and still get to keep your artwork. Otherwise, we have to return it to the insurance company.

– Source: Lansing, David. Artifice. Art & Antiques. Summer 2006: 98. Print.

Artist Lee Ufan’s forgery scandal continues

Three people have been arrested for allegedly forging and selling copies of artist Lee Ufan’s paintings. A National Forensic Service investigation confirmed that the six works in question do not align with genuine pieces by Ufan. The artist, however, maintains that the 13 paintings in questions are his authentic works.

Following a tip-off last December, the police raided Seoul galleries suspected of selling fake artworks by Ufan. The following month the police said that the Certificate of Authenticity for his 1978 painting From Point No. 780217, which was sold for US$415,600 to a private collector at an auction last year, had been forged. Although the artwork itself was proven to be authentic, the incident raised further suspicions surrounding the authenticity of his paintings.

In May and July, the police arrested three art forgers for 55 fake pieces claimed to have been done by Ufan, and selling them through the same gallery implicated in the latest police discovery. With four of the 13 paintings seized by the police credited to this group and six paintings claimed to have been forged by the latest forgery ring, the source or sources of the remaining three seized paintings are still unknown.

Ufan has been steadfast in his claims that the paintings alleged to have been forged are in fact his works. “A person’s flow and rhythm are like one’s fingerprints, which cannot be imitated,” he said at a press conference in June, after examining 13 works the National Forensic Service seized and identified as fake. “They are undoubtedly mine.”

Franklin Pierce University professor tied to fake art scheme

A former Franklin Pierce University professor and her son have been accused of selling almost US$700,000 worth of counterfeit paintings to a well-known art collector, according to court documents.

A recently filed lawsuit alleges that Lorettann Gascard, a former art history professor at FPU and director of the university’s art gallery, and her son Nikolas, sold 24 counterfeit Leon Golub paintings to collector Andrew Hall over a two-year period. 

Hall, who collects postwar and contemporary art, began collecting the works of Leon Golub in 2003, according to court documents. He had acquired about 40 of his works by 2009.

His first experience with the Gascards was in September of 2009, when he purchased a piece through auction. At the time, the piece was said to have been “acquired directly from the artist by the present owner” and brought to auction by the Gascards. Hall purchased six more paintings from the Gascards via auction through March 2011. By January 2011, Hall began dealing directly with the Gascards. All in all, Hall purchased 24 paintings directly or through auction from the Gascards, according to court documents.

In November 2014, Hall, through the Hall Art Foundation, an organsation founded by Hall and his wife Christine, began to plan an exhibit of his Golub collection, which totaled over 60 paintings. When Hall’s foundation asked the provenance of the paintings, the Gascards said the works were either gifts or purchases from Golub, and that they had a personal relationship with the artist.

In preparation for the exhibit, which was due to open in early May of 2015, the Hall Foundation contacted Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts to confirm the dates and titles of the works that would be exhibited.

During this process, the Golub Foundation raised red flags about “virtually all” of the works acquired from the Gascards, as there was no record of the paintings in the Golub Foundation’s inventory.

Golub’s son, professor Stephen Golub, emailed the Hall Foundation on March 28, 2015, saying that in addition to the works being “problematic,” neither he nor his brother had a recollection of meeting or hearing of Gascard.

The complaint filed with the court alleges that the Hall Art Foundation began seeking Gascard’s assistance to prove the genuineness of the challenged works.

While a spokesperson at Franklin Pierce University has confirmed that Gascard is no longer employed with the school, no further information was provided. Gascard had been employed with the university from 1997 at least through December of 2014. In May of 2014, Gascard had filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging various forms of employment discrimination.

JLT warns art dealers after £8.5 million painting forgery

Major broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson has warned art dealers against the impact of art forgeries after the painting An Unknown Man, thought to be by Dutch artist Frans Hals and sold for £8.5 million was recently declared fake. 

According to Sotheby’s, tests revealed that the painting was “undoubtedly” forged. The firm had “rescinded the sale and reimbursed the client in full.”

JLT warned that in many cases, collectors will not be able to claim against their insurance if they discover that their art pieces are forgeries. However, there are certain policies that cover these cases, according to Daniel Smith, a member of JLT’s Fine Art, Jewellery and Specie team.

“Although the take-up of this sort of policy is relatively low, I think we’ll start to see a significant increase as the possibilities of more forged Old Masters are uncovered,” he said.

Smith said dealers can purchase professional indemnity insurance to protect themselves from customers’ lawsuits resulting from art forgeries. However, most dealers don’t bother getting cover because of the costly nature of the policy, Smith noted.

“In light of this recent issue as well as a number of similar high-profile forgery cases this year, I would urge dealers to consider safeguarding themselves against the impact – both in terms of money and reputation – that cases such as these can have on their business,” Smith said.

Aboriginal artefacts in Sotheby's auction prompt questions over provenance

“I defy anyone to look at these and not feel uncomfortable,” says Indigenous artist Jonathan Jones of the broad shields listed in the catalogue for the Sotheby’s London auction of Aboriginal Art on September 21.

At first glance, the listing may seem relatively innocuous. However, little is known about how this particular shield came to be in private hands. 

Jones, along with National Museum of Australia senior curator Carol Cooper, is on a mission to find out exactly where shields like this came from, right down to identifying the people who made them. He has set up an informal group of Aboriginal elders from around south-east Australia who he consults when he and Cooper come across similar pieces at auction, in private collections or in institutions.

A number of 19th-century weapons such as boomerangs and spears are listed in the Sotheby’s auction catalogue, alongside pieces from the Fiona Brockhoff collection of early Aboriginal sculpture and contemporary Indigenous art from the estate of Gabrielle Pizzi.

Asked about the provenance of items such as the shield, Tim Klingender, a consultant on Aboriginal art to Sotheby’s London, said it was true some items had been taken as curios in the 18th century and had remained in private hands since, only to be rediscovered in homes in England and Scotland.

Regarding recent cases in which items had been returned by institutions, such as the Shiva statue repatriated to India by the National Gallery of Australia after it was found to have been stolen from a temple, Klingender says there is no comparison. Unlike the Shiva, there is no suggestion the weapons listed at Sotheby’s were stolen, nor their ownership history falsified. However, he says it is true that some ethnographers collected many items such as bark paintings without recording “a single name”.

Jones, whose research focuses specifically on shields, says the lack of detail is deeply problematic. “It’s a challenging idea. If something was sold was it under duress? Were people in a position where they could refuse a sale?,” he asks.

Grandchildren of Matisse's muse sue National Gallery for reclaim of 'stolen' portrait

The National Gallery in London is being sued by the grandchildren of Matisse’s muse over a painting they claim was stolen from their family in the aftermath of WW II.

The three grandchildren – Oliver Williams, from Kent; his cousin Margaret Green, who lives in East Yorkshire, and a third Germany-based cousin, Iris Filmer – accuse the National Gallery of displaying a painting that rightfully belongs to them.

The trio, through their lawyer, claim that a film last year, Woman In Gold – detailing the struggle of Maria Altmann, played by Helen Mirren, to reclaim family possessions that were seized by the Nazis – shows that such cases are legally sound.

On Wednesday they launched legal proceedings in a federal court in Manhattan, after five years of wrangling over the ownership of the painting. The case was brought in New York because, the plaintiffs argue, the National Gallery has commercial interests in the US and has profited from the work.

The trio want the painting returned, or $30 million in compensation.

The celebrated 1908 oil painting shows their trio’s grandmother, Greta Moll – who sat for Matisse in Paris. Moll’s husband Oskar had bought the painting in 1908, and the couple returned to Germany.

Considered a masterpiece of Matisse’s fauve period, it was deemed so significant that it was shipped to New York for a 1931 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, in Manhattan.But the Nazis were fiercely critical of the Molls’ art work, labelling it degenerate and bourgeois. From 1933 on, Oskar and Greta Moll were prohibited by the Nazis from exhibiting their art in Germany. Articles in newspapers and art reviews defamed them as degenerate and bolshevist artists. They lived in Berlin until 1943, when the city became subject to massive bombing attacks. On their return, after the War, they found to their delight that the painting had survived. But, given the looting and chaos in the aftermath, they accepted an offer from a former student of Oskar Moll, Gertrud Djamarani, to take the painting to Switzerland and leave it with an art dealer for safekeeping. Djamarani, who was preparing to emigrate to Iran, then sold the painting, kept the proceeds, and left for the Middle East, according to the suit.

When Greta Moll died in 1977, she had no idea what had happened to it.

“Unfortunately, because of its refusal to return the portrait to the Moll heirs, the National Gallery has left the Moll family no other choice than to file suit to recover this lost family heirloom.”

From Switzerland, painting was imported to the US in 1949 by Knoedler & Co in New York City – a now defunct gallery, which in February settled a $25 million case for selling a fake Mark Rothko to the chairman of Sotheby’s.

The painting of Moll was then sold to a private collector, Lee Blaffer, in Texas, before being bought by the Lefevre gallery in London - who finally sold it to the National Gallery in 1979.

Disputed Maya manuscript turns out to be the real deal

A mysterious and long-disputed document purported to be America’s oldest surviving manuscript is genuine.

That’s the conclusion of a new review of research on the Grolier Codex, a fragmentary 13th Century Maya text whose unlikely provenance ― it was reportedly found by looters in a Mexican cave in the 1960s ― had led some to conclude that it was likely a forgery.

“With this review, which examines information that a forger in the early 1960s could not possibly have known, it becomes crystal clear that this is the earliest surviving book in the New World,” Dr. Stephen Houston, a Brown University archaeologist and a member of the team that conducted the review.

As described recently in a paper published in Maya Archaeology, the team reached their conclusion after an exhaustive analysis of existing research on the codex (the term is used to describe a manuscript in book form).

Caveat emptor: why the art world is a legal landmine

It is a privilege afforded to lawyers to observe the problems faced by individuals, families and trustees in respect of their assets and seek to find solutions. Disputes concerning art, antiquities and cultural assets – sometimes more colourful and interesting than the object in question – can be particularly emotive.

One aspect that differentiates the market for art and antiquities from the trade in other valuable assets is that it is largely unregulated; anyone can buy and sell freely without having to comply with any prescribed formal requirements. As the value of such assets increase and the stakes get higher, so does the potential for things to go wrong. This can lead to interesting issues concerning, provenance, attribution, legal title and forgeries (to name a few examples).

The provenance and attribution of an artwork or antiquity are often key considerations. A connection to a well-known historic collection, or authorship by a renowned artist or maker can enhance desirability and thus add significant value. Of course, the reverse is also true in cases where the provenance or attribution turn out to be incorrect.

One can imagine the disappointment of finding out, as one of our client’s did, that artworks, which had been sold as being by a highly regarded artist whose works were in a European royal collection, were actually by a minor artist of no significance and worth many times less than the price paid.

Navigating between fact and ‘sales puff’ can often be a challenge. Does a statement that an artwork is of exceptional quality mean that it is unusually good, or is this just a statement of opinion by the seller? Buyers of art have to be cautious about readily accepting statements made about it. Even pre-eminent experts can sometimes have differing opinions. Matters such as attribution, and the physical condition of an artwork can be difficult to assess when restoration and underlying issues are not always visible to the untrained eye.

The case of Thwaytes v Sotheby’s provides a noteworthy example. Mr Thwaytes consigned a painting, The Cardsharps, to Sotheby’s for sale by auction, putting them on notice that it may be a work by the renowned old master, Caravaggio. Sotheby’s experts examined the painting, but took the view that it was a copy by an unknown artist. The picture could, of course, have sold for many multiples of the sale price had it been sold as a work by Caravaggio.

The buyer, a renowned art scholar, later identified the picture as being an autograph copy by Caravaggio himself. Mr Thwaytes sued Sotheby’s for negligence, but was unsuccessful; the court found that Sotheby’s had not breached their duty since there was nothing that would have been visible on a visual inspection that should have counteracted Sotheby’s view that the painting did not have Caravaggio ‘potential’. The case illustrates just how subjective authenticating a work of art can be.

Unscrupulous sellers - of which, unfortunately, there are a few around - will often make grandiose statements about the artworks/antiquities they are selling in order to secure a sale. It is, therefore, vital for any buyer to make sure that the object being sold is what it purports to be, or at least ensure that there is adequate protection in place should things go wrong.

Alec Baldwin, the Bait-and-Switch and ‘Original Copies’

News broke this weekend of actor Alec Baldwin having been duped into buying a copy of a painting, Sea and Mirror, that he had long admired, when he thought he was buying the original. But it was an original that he bought—just not the original he had hoped for.

Halidonto's Cyborgs are invading Tagsmart!

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As a Tagsmart Certify artist, Hallidonto now protects his work from being faked or forged and gives his buyers 21st-century peace of mind. Our smart DNA tags attached to his artworks act as a seal of authenticity and our uncopiable physical and digital Certificates of Authenticity provide irrefutable proof of provenance and ownership for his buyers.

Check it out here!

Every single lie Yang Yin has told, according to the prosecution

Another day in court, another day of the prosecution exposing what it says are lies, lies, lies, by Yang Yin to cover up his crime of cheating an old widow of her millions of dollars. In the last nine days of the trial, the prosecution has introduced what seemed at times to be an endless stream of evidence, and testimony, portraying the 42-year-old Chinese national as an unrepentant liar who would fib his way out of anything.

Did it work? Maybe. It was all too much for Yang, who nearly broke down yesterday and actually agreed with the prosecution, when asked repeatedly if he was someone who was “willing to lie when it is suitable and convenient for [him]”.

Today, he told the court he was “very stressed” with the proceedings. When asked by the judge if he felt unwell, he replied: “physically and emotionally a little bit”.  He looked tired and was rocking slightly on the stand. “I would like to request, your honour, I would like to give up giving testimony. My lawyer explained to me today. Today I would like to tell your honour about how I feel so please allow me to,” he told the judge through an interpreter.

Yang is being accused of two charges of criminal breach of trust involving a total of US$1.1 million he allegedly misappropriated from elderly widow, Chung Khin Chun.

Lucian Freud’s long-standing feud with fellow East Anglian artist Denis Wirth-Miller to feature on BBC One’s Fake or Fortune

Lucian Freud and Denis Wirth-Miller trained together at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Hadleigh but reportedly became fierce rivals. Their mutual dislike was said to be so great that Freud, grandson of the psychoanalyst Sigmund, spent decades denying that he painted a picture owned by Wirth-Miller, just to scupper his plans to sell it.

Wirth-Miller and his partner Richard “Dickie” Chopping, who lived in Wivenhoe prior to their death, found Man in a Black Cravat sometime during the Second World War. However, Freud, who referred to his contemporary as “Worst Miller”, denied it was his work, and apparently contacted auction houses to prevent its sale.

Freud, who died in 2011, once held the title of most valuable living artist, when his Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, sold for US$33.6m in 2008. Man in a Black Cravat would be worth around £500,000 if proved genuine.

Fake or Fortune, which airs on BBC One this Sunday, aims to prove the provenance of the painting once and for all.

Lindauer forger eludes police

A police investigation has failed to solve the mystery of who really painted a fake Lindauer that cost taxpayers $75,000. Wellington’s Alexander Turnbull Library was left red-faced last year when it emerged a painting it bought in 2013, supposedly by renowned New Zealand artist Gottfried Lindauer, was a forgery. A chemical analysis after the purchase showed paint used in the work Hamiora Maioha was of a type not available when Lindauer was alive.

The discovery prompted the library to refer the matter to police, who spoke to the painting’s previous owner before shelving their investigation because nothing was known about the art work’s origins.

Court orders dealer of phony artwork to repay victims

Buyers who obrtained fake artwork from a Madison dealer will receive full restitution after being tricked into spending thousands of dollars on works purported to be by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and other masters, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled.

David Crespo, who formerly owned the Brandon Gallery in Madison, was sentenced to almost five years in prison in early 2015 following an undercover sting operation conducted after federal authorities came to believe he was selling fake artwork on eBay. The investigation, which started in 2009, was launched after a customer went to the local police department to complain about being sold a fake.

British doubts over Joan of Arc's ring

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.

Gallery operator indicted for counterfeiting Lee Ufan's works

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Prosecutors have indicted a 66-year-old gallery operator on charges of forging artworks made by renowned South Korean artist Lee Ufan. The suspect, identified only by his surname, Hyeon, is accused of receiving some US$1.1 million in 2012 for producing and selling three fake art works.

Hyeon allegedly received an offer from an unidentified antique dealer to fabricate Lee’s works in 2011, in return for 50% of the profits.

The investigation is still under way as the suspect testified that he created some 50 forgeries together with another accomplice, whose identity was withheld.

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.