Tagsmart

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.

Dan Hillier at Sunday Upmarket

Tagsmart artist Dan Hillier will be this Sunday, August 6th, at the Sunday Upmarket, at The Old Truman Brewery. He will be there with a stack of 2-for-1 prints and some one-off/ and small edition colour pieces. 

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The artist has just announced he will also be creating the art for Othon’s upcoming album The God Within. You can read more about the project here.

Dan Hillier has developed a unique style, combining Victorian sensibilities with a fascination for animal attributes, and characterised by depictions of illusory human-animal hybrids, intertwined with late-1800s imagery. His beautiful, classically rooted images find power in their unsettling effect, as they seamlessly blur distinctions normally implied by reality.

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.” 

Philip Mould & Co. and Tagsmart... Yep, that just happened!

We are delighted to have been featured in Melanie Gerlis’ column in the FT Collecting supplement this past weekend announcing our strategic partnership with British and Old Masters dealer Philip Mould and his prestigious London gallery.

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A selection of the gallery’s artworks will be marked with Philip Mould-branded tags, and accompanied by its Certificate of Authenticity and secure digital record. The first artworks to be tagged will be by Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris.

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Philip Mould OBE explains that “there is now an increasing need to inject security and confidence into the art market. The art world, particularly 20th-century art, is in peril of fakery.”

The leading art specialist and co-presenter of BBC’s Fake or Fortune? will also contribute his extensive knowledge in art conservation, restoration and issues of authenticity to the ongoing development of Tagsmart’s products and services. Tom Toumazis MBE, Chairman of Tagsmart said: “To have the opportunity to work with the Philip Mould gallery and also welcome Philip as one of our Strategic Advisors is a significant step in the development of our business.”

Picture perfect for collectors

When it comes to fine art photography, sometimes what you pay for may not be what you get.

Using a camera obscura (a latin term meaning literally ‘dark room’), Nicéphore Niépce produced the first permanent photoetching in 1822, but it was only four years later that the French inventor made the View from the Window at Le Gras, the world’s oldest surviving camera photograph.

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Not long after Niépce’s death in 1833, Louis Daguerre developed the Daguerreotype, the first commercially successful photographic process which reduced the development time from hours to seconds. An international sensation, the popularisation of this technique gave rise to speculations about the “end of painting”. 

In that same period, American pioneer of photography Robert Cornelius produced the earliest surviving selfie (1839) and painter and inventor Hércules Florence had started working out a silver-salt-based paper process in Brazil, later naming it photographie.

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Meanwhile, British inventor William Fox Talbot developed a different process called Calotype (from the Greek kalos, meaning ‘beautiful’ and tupos meaning ‘impression’). Using paper sheets covered with silver chloride to create a negative exposure, it was then placed in contact with another paper so as to print multiple positive copies. This technique is actually very similar to the photographic process in use today.

Making a long story short, almost fifty years later, American inventor George Eastman patented the first photographic roll film and perfected his camera to take advantage of his invention. By 1892, Eastman founded Kodak, and soon after launched the Brownie camera with a price of US$1, bringing, therefore, photography to the mass market (‘You press the button, we do the rest!’).

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Since then, the photography market has experienced a growing technological evolution with the establishment of colour film as a standard, auto-focus, and automatic exposure. These innovations undoubtedly made it easier to capture an image, improve the quality of reproductions and accelerate the processing speed.

From the end of the 20th-century, digital photography minimised costs, sped up processes and facilitated the production, manipulation, storage and distribution of images. However, these technological advances also facilitated the production and circulation of forgeries. 

With so many artists using photography but so few of them printing their own work, forgeries by underpaid darkroom technicians are a common, especially in the vulnerable contemporary market. How problematic the fine art photography forgery has become can be illustrated by recent scandals involving counterfeit prints by Man Ray, Lewis Hine and Crespy Le Prince.

As the number of copies is virtually limitless with today’s printing capabilities, defining an ‘original photograph’ is of great importance. 

Here are some ways to determine the originality of a photographic work:
• Original photographs will have provenance information, including its copyright, typically documented on a Certificate of Authenticity.
• If the artwork is has a Smart Tag, check its tag number on the Tagsmart online platform. Each Smart Tag has its own unique reference number, linked to the work’s secure Certificate of Authenticity and its digital counterpart. Designed to assure the genuineness of artworks, warrant the accuracy of ownership status, and protect buyers and sellers against fakes and forgeries, Tagsmart offers the art market a better, simpler way of doing what it already does, while also solving the problems of trust and credibility.
• If the photograph is labelled as a reproduction, it probably means that the photographer had little (or nothing) to do with the printing, distribution, and selling of that work.
• Finally, accept that if the photograph is priced very cheaply, it is most likely a reproduction.

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.

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

Tagsmart hand-pick: Getting our spring vibes on!

With the arrival of spring, we felt like celebrating the upcoming launch of our new Smart Tag by asking some of our team members what are their favourite works on canvas when thinking of the new season.

The vast array in style demonstrates the wide diversity of taste in art amongst us. Nonetheless, one thing remains the same for all: there is plenty of enthusiasm and excitement for the days to come!

Luke Kang, Production and Fulfilment Manager & Artist 
Lois Dodd’s Self-Portrait in Green Window (1971)

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When I think of spring, nature immediately comes to mind. I feel that this piece by Lois Dodd is an embodiment of the season. The painting catches my eyes due to the use of off-green colours she uses and which I find rather curious given that the artist is known for her depiction of life and landscapes.

She portrays herself in a darker, shadowy green, giving her an undead appearance, the colours used on her self-portrait evoke a slightly sickly appearance. Yet, altogether the subject matter reflects opposing feelings, of fecundity, abundance, fruitfulness and life. I feel Dodd is making an ironic statement here possibly hinting back into the ideas of zombies and reanimation.

I also appreciate how confident she is with her painting style. She might mix paint before hand, but she doesn’t mix many colours one they are laid out on the canvas, instead opting for a flat and bold application of paint.

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Freddie Powell, Product Assistant
Alice Browne’s Powder (Poised) (2015)

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I searched ‘the best things about spring’ and the first answer to pop up was 'because it brings the hope of some sunshine for a least a few days in a row’.  I immediately thought of Alice Browne’s Powder (Poised) in which the colours of the season seem to be waiting to burst through. It’s not hard to be attracted to the almost fragrant selection of green, red and yellows on view, getting a sense for the lighter and longer days just after the clocks come forward.

Browne’s work focuses on her own fictional and imaginary architectures, shown here through connected blue lines and the works growing layered spaces between. Perhaps here she has painted spring itself, no longer just a season but a physical space for the viewer to explore and (finally) enjoy!

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Annalise Brocklehurst, Business Development & Client Services Executive
Damien Hirst’s Midas of Phrygia (2007)

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Damien Hirst’s Butterfly Colour Paintings remind me of spring because it is the time when trees blossom, a new life begins and our world becomes more colourful again. His piece with butterflies positioned in a circle suggests an idea of a cycle, with the passing of winter and the celebration of spring and life. Although some believe the piece could be interpreted as morbid and evoking death, as butterflies live on average for only a month, I believe the opposite. I see everything flourishing and it makes me feel uplifted and alive. 

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Julia Ferreira de Abreu, Marketing Manager
David Hockney’s The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire (2011)

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This monumental 32-canvas painting forms one part of a 52-part work by David Hockney. The first time I saw this gem was at Hockney’s A Bigger Picture exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was February 2012 and I had had enough of winter. Spring seemed to be too far away and this artwork made me yearn for warmer weathers, brighter skies and flowers coming into bloom. It felt as if Hockney is inviting me to slip right inside the painting and walk along that lovely path under the trees!

The Arrival of Spring’s vibrant colours scream spring and represent the change of seasons with the same enthusiasm as mine. The rich reds and greens make me anticipate what’s to come and reflect on nature’s cycles, the passage of time and the small but significant changes that unfold daily before our eyes. Conveying the beauty and grandeur of nature’s transience and the warmth of the new season, it sets us on a journey to the rediscovery of the landscape. 

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Anastasia Aya Aroukatos, PR & Marketing Executive
Hope Gangloff’s Late Night (Olga Alexandrovskaya) (2015)

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Recently everywhere I look I amazed by the sprouting colours all around me, shocked that in a city like London such vibrant colours and flowers actually bloom. Maybe I have never paid enough attention? The sensation of feeling overwhelmed by the beautiful weather and nature that envelops me during spring makes me think of this painting by Hope Gangloff.

I feel like I draw some parallels between his work and that of Gustav Klimt, who is one of my all-time favourite painters. I especially love the intricate details and colours in the clothing and room decor. These patterns remind me of that time of year that I wait for in anticipation to go into our storage and pull out my spring wardrobe which is filled with an array of colourful prints. At the same time, there is a lack of light and life in the colours, reminding me that summer is not yet here, but around the corner!

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.

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.

Paintings were passed off as original artwork by Norman Cornish

Earlier this week conman Richard Pearson was arrested for distributing the forged artworks claiming to belong to Norman Cornish, who died in 2014. Northumbria Police released photographs of some of the paintings and drawings which fooled gallery owners.

They are not exact replicas of Cornish originals but are painted in the artist’s distinctive style, showing scenes of everyday life.

Newcastle Crown Court heard fraudster Richard Pearson convinced gallery owners he had access to a collection of Cornish’s artworks through inheritance and a friend who wanted to sell his personal collection. He passed off a series of 14 drawings and pictures. Four of the fakes were sold on to private collectors.

Museum rewards donor with fake art to hang at home

After collector Henry Bloch donated an enviable group of impressionist artworks to the city’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the museum returned the favor, sort of.

The museum printed digital copies of each of Mr. Bloch’s 29 paintings—including examples by Edouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse—and delivered the framed replicas to his home two months ago so he could hang them in the exact same spots as the originals. Mr. Bloch said the copies are so realistic, he has to peer closely to discern the differences. “Every museum should be offering this service,” he said.

Art forgers aren’t the only ones using technology to produce ever-more-convincing fake paintings. Museums, in a rarely discussed practice, are churning them out as thank-you gifts to major donors. Curators say it’s mostly a taboo topic because the recipients don’t always like to admit they’ve got a glorified poster hanging in the place of a masterpiece, but Sotheby’s said auction houses have long gifted their major consignors with framed copies of big-ticket items. 

Julian Zugazagoitia, CEO and director of the Nelson-Atkins, said he initially considered the Bloch copies to be a fluky one-off, a gesture that could allow the museum to display Mr. Bloch’s art as part of its permanent collection when it reopens its renovated European art galleries March 11. Otherwise, it would have had to wait for the works to be given in a promised bequest as part of the 94-year-old collector’s estate. (Mr. Bloch’s foundation paid $12.7 million for the renovation.)

Yet as word spread of the museum’s unconventional offer, the director said his own trustees started reaching out, seeking prints for their art holdings. The director said going public about the potential perk could elicit gifts while donors are still alive. “The offer is becoming part of my tool kit now,” Mr. Zugazagoitia said.

Mr. Zugazagoitia said he is aware that such swapping could undermine one of the intangible factors that fuel an artwork’s value, namely the evidence of the artist’s own handiwork or at least the artist’s legitimising involvement. The museum itself will continue to display only original works, not copies. “We still believe in the aura of artists’ works,” he said. “People who come here need to see the originals.”The museum’s knockoffs are designed to look real—but only from the front so as not to dupe anyone long-term, said Steve Waterman, the museum’s director of design and experience. The fake canvases lack telltale brush strokes, and the backs of their frames lack gallery labels and other notations that appraisers and authenticators typically use to determine a work’s legitimacy.

Can you spot the difference?

The art of forgery has progressed step by step with the evolution of art. Some forgers even create fake paper trails. Others are so accurate that even the experts can’t tell them apart, and then science must step in to analyse the paint, canvas or relative age of the work.

At the Piramal Museum of Art in Lower Parel, an exhibition titled Likeness Without Reference – The Cultures of Forgery, is putting the real and the counterfeit side by side to try and show viewers the scale of the problem, and teach them a little bit about how to tell real master art from forgery (signatures and markings play a key role, FYI).

Visit us at the London Art Fair 2017

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London Art Fair is the UK’s premier Modern and Contemporary Art fair. The 29th edition of the fair returns to Islington from 18-22 January 2017, featuring over one hundred carefully selected galleries from the UK and overseas.

Modern art is presented alongside contemporary work from today’s leading artists, covering the period from the early 20th century to the present day.

Endorsed and used by leading and upcoming artists, Tagsmart is proud to sponsor this event. Visit our stand S4 to discover the extensive benefits of our all-round complete art authentication solutions, from DNA tagging technology to identify artworks alongside a unique system for issuing Certificates of Authenticity. These services are fully integrated with a secure digital platform which enables artists to verify the authenticity of their artworks and create an accredited chain of provenance. 

Whether you are an artist, a collector or an art seller, Tagsmart Certify is the perfect solution for you.

Faking it: Does the forged Vermeer that fooled Goering belong in a museum?

There ain’t no way that’s a Caravaggio.

Let me pause and leave you with that thought, before we circle back to it.

So there I was this weekend, in the small Dutch town of Deventer for my best friend’s wedding. I walked past the enormous former cathedral, stripped to the bricks during the Reformation, en route to complete task number 1 in my duty as best man: buying a postcard and a pen. That’s when I passed a sign at the town’s museum: Een Echte van Meegeren. “An Original Van Meegeren.” What were the chances? My last book was an illustrated history of forgery, prominently featuring Han van Meegeren, Dutch art forger extraordinaire, and there happens to be a special exhibit of his forgeries a few paces from where my friend is about to get hitched? In I went.

And here’s the thing. Van Meegeren’s paintings may look nothing whatsoever like the work of Vermeer, and it remains extraordinary that the world’s leading specialists were so convinced that Van Meegeren’s forgeries were Vermeer originals — but they are extremely beautiful. They also fulfill Aristotle’s definition of what makes for great art: His paintings are good (they exhibit skill), they are beautiful (a subjective opinion, but a legitimate one) and they are interesting. Interesting not because they are some revolutionary new interpretation of art, but because of the story they embody, possibly the most dramatic of all known forgery cases. Van Meegeren was arrested after the Second World War for having sold Dutch cultural heritage (a Vermeer painting) to the enemy (Herman Göring, head of the Luftwaffe and a ravenous stolen art collector). This was considered high treason and, if found guilty, van Meegeren could have been executed. Oops. He rather frantically tried to explain his “recipe” for forging a Vermeer, but was not believed until he actually painted another one while incarcerated.

Looking at Van Meegeren’s paintings in person for the first time, I was struck by the thought: I’d love to own this.

I would love to be a forgery collector. The problem with forgeries is the whole being-duped thing. Buyers don’t want to feel that they’ve had the wool (expensively) pulled over their eyes. If you think you’ve bought a Tesla, paid Tesla prices, and it turned out that someone stuck a Tesla chassis on a Renault Zoe, you’d be pretty pissed. Same deal (but think in the millions rather than the tens of thousands), and you’ll understand the reaction of buyers who might have thought they were acquiring a Vermeer (worth tens of millions) but actually have a Van Meegeren (worth perhaps in the mid-five figures, largely because of the story behind his crime). But what if you know that it’s a Van Meegeren forgery of a Vermeer? Stripped of the fraud component, what you have is an extremely skillfully executed painting, beautiful and with a heck of an interesting story behind it. It becomes a relic of the story in which it featured, but it can also be admired for its aesthetic value.

Forgery stories pop up all the time. In recent months, suspicion has floated that there is a previously unknown master forger of Old Master paintings (or ring of cooperating forgers) whose works are bobbing to the surface. Extremely good, expert-fooling forgeries have been spotted only with great difficulty: a painting by Lucas Cranach, a Franz Hals, a stunning Orazio Gentileschi. Add to this the Caravaggio I mentioned at the start of this essay, supposedly found in a family’s attic in Toulouse. This makes for at least four extremely convincing works that divide scholars. A handful still contend that each is authentic (or at least that evidence has yet to be made public that proves otherwise). Others argue that these are recently-made forgeries. Then there is the third option: that they are copies after original works, made not with fraud in mind (and therefore not a proper forgery), but later misattributed as an original.

The idea that there is a “ring of forgers” is probably the least likely option, especially considering the works in question are skillfully executed, naturalistic works. One of only a few known proper forgery rings was in Siena in the 1930s, built up around Icilio Federico Joni, who specialized, along with his comrades, in Sienese Gothic altarpieces. But that is an outlier. Almost all known forgers have created alone (though many worked with others who functioned as front men and did the actual conning). There are some organized crime groups who dabble in forgery, but they tend to focus on far easier-to-produce, and often more valuable, modern works (like the Austrian/Slovenian gang just busted for trying to sell forged Picassos at 10 million Euros a pop). Abstract, minimalist work is artistically easier to produce than intricate, naturalistic paintings, but more than that, the materials are easier to get hold of (to resist forensic testing), and forgers do not have to replicate centuries of patina and craquelure if the work in question is only meant to be a few decades old.

So how do we know if these works are a) original, b) forgeries or c) copies that were misattributed as originals?

Forensic testing can only tell us so much. It can tell us the rough date that organic materials in a painting were made, and that’s pretty good. That should rule out a forgery, especially for Old Master works from the 16th or 17th centuries. But it can rarely guarantee authorship. Just because the Toulouse “Caravaggio” painting of Judith beheading Holofernes dates to circa 1610 does not make it a Caravaggio. Caravaggio’s work was so wildly popular that a wash of other artists sought to emulate his style (they are featured now in London’s National Gallery, at an exhibit called “Beyond Caravaggio.”) The original of this painting hangs in Rome at Palazzo Barberini, so this is necessarily either a copy by Caravaggio (and we have no historical record or precedence of him making an exact copy of one of his own paintings, as he altered them when asked to do multiple versions of a single subject, like his “David with the Head of Goliath” or “Supper at Emmaus” paintings), or a copy after Caravaggio. The latter is far more likely and, frankly, is what I thought immediately upon seeing a digital image of the Toulouse painting. It just doesn’t look good enough to be by Caravaggio himself. It looks like a solid, contemporary copy, likely by a 17th century painter who tried to learn Caravaggio’s best-selling style (which the artist fiercely guarded — he sued those who tried to ape him). It’s valuable. It’s interesting. I’d be delighted to have the work on my wall. But it ain’t no Caravaggio.

Which brings me to my point. Depending on the law of the country in question, some forged artworks proved as such in court must be destroyed (in France, for instance), a draconian move meant to make it impossible for forgers to profit from their crimes. Other nations keep forgeries for didactic purposes (Scotland Yard owns many wonderful forgeries from their successful investigations, and occasionally shows them in exhibitions) — when I taught a course on art crime at Yale, I was able to dip into recognized forgeries in the Yale Art Gallery’s storerooms and use them in hands-on seminars with my students. Forgeries should be noted as such, and it’s no good if they continue to fool people. Likewise, it probably is immoral, and should likely be illegal, for convicted forgers to profit from the sale of their art or image rights to them (this is why the blockbuster Scotland Yard exhibits at London’s V&A Museum never came with a catalogue — they would have had to pay the forgers for permission to use the images). But forgeries are beautiful, interesting, skillfully made objects that are a component of the history of art, culture and crime. As long as they no longer trick us, they are works that I, for one, would be delighted to collect.

An art fair through the eyes of Tagsmart Certify artist Idris Khan

It’s not often that you’ll find a world-renowned artist roaming the halls of an international art fair. But for Idris Khan, the experience can be enriching.

“Art fairs are necessarily not for artists,” says Khan, whose work combines painting, photography and sculpture.

“What it does is it opens art to the masses a lot more. Not everyone goes to museums, not everyone can go and buy in galleries, so I think it opens up people’s minds in a much more global way.”

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.

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”.