Tagsmart is a British technology company, formally launched in April 2016. The company pioneered the application of DNA tags to authenticate artworks and is now the go-to provider of tagging and certification services in the fine art market. It was the only such business highlighted in the 2017 Deloitte Art and Finance Report. Tagsmart already has 23,000 artworks on its platform attributed to over 200 artists and has tagged and certificated more than 11,000 works.
The company has relationships with hundreds of artists, galleries, and fabricators, from world-renowned founding partners like Gary Hume through to increasing numbers of emerging and decorative artists.
Widewalls: Let us start by introducing Tagsmart to our readers. When was it conceived and who is in the team behind it?
Tom Toumazis MBE: Tagsmart was set up by globally renowned frame-maker and fabricator Mark Darbyshire and product designer Steve Cooke in 2014.
The team features experts from art and tech backgrounds including Nicolas Gitton, former UK MD of Paddle8, Robert Suss, renowned art collector and Trustee of the Royal Academy of Arts and Aino-Leena Grapin, former EMEA MD at Paddle8 who held senior roles at Christie’s.
Widewalls: What can you tell us about your own background? How did you get into this business?
TT: I worked in the media and entertainment world for over 30 years and I am a keen art collector. A good friend of mine introduced me to Steve Cooke and I loved the scale of the idea and wanted to get involved as an investor and was asked to join the company as Chairman in January 2015.
Since last year, I now spend all my time working with Steve Cooke helping build the business.
How Does Tagsmart Work?
Widewalls: Tagsmart uses “physical DNA Tags to identity artworks via an online service.” Could you explain what this means?
TT: Tagsmart offers an all-round complete art authentication solution, combining physical and digital elements. Applied to the back of an artwork, our Tags seal its authenticity.
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.
Applied within seconds, each Tag has its own unique reference number, linked to the artwork’s secure Certificate of Authenticity and its digital counterpart. Our secure Certificate of Authenticity offers additional, proprietary security measures to defeat forgery and ensure that its validity is restricted to the registered owner of the work.
Last but not least, the Digital Certificate acts as the virtual twin to the physical certificate which becomes a passport over time featuring the artwork provenance.
Widewalls: How does your tag work across different media – for instance, the high-end limited edition books, which is a fairly recent addition to your services?
TT: We recently partnered with Moonlight Books, Tagsmart developed a new DNA stamp technology specifically for high end limited-edition books. The company authenticated Ricochet: David Bowie 1983 by the rock star photographer Denis O’Regan, which includes a fine art collection of rare photographs of David Bowie’s tour.
Last October we made our first move into tagging sculpture, working with internationally- renowned artist Idris Khan for his exhibition Absorbing Light 46 at Victoria Miro Gallery.
Who Has Tagsmart Already Partnered With?
Widewalls: Your company works with artists, galleries and collectors. How do your services benefit each of them?
TT: We have had a great deal of interest from artists working in the primary limited edition print market but we also work with over 20 galleries here in the UK. We recently signed a deal to partner with Own Art, who have a relationship with over 300 UK galleries to offer our technology.
Our interaction with collectors is when they buy a work and come onto our platform. They can update information about each artwork as well as sharing their piece with friends on social media.
Widewalls: Can you name a few artists you’ve already partnered with? How do you describe these relationships?
TT: We are working with hundreds of artists and they range from renowned contemporary artists like Gary Hume and Marc Quinn to emerging artists who love what we do and want to start their art journey by adopting our technology. Some of our artists played a key part in the developing of our technology.
Widewalls: What are your views on the art market at this moment, both the “physical” and the online one? Where do you see it going in 5 years?
TT: The industry is undergoing some significant changes. Artists, Auction Houses and Galleries are trying to figure out how they can embrace the online market. Some are closer than others. We see online retail as becoming a larger part of the art market – but trust is a key component to helping build that growth.
If art is ever to enjoy the kind of market share online that we have seen in other sectors, provenance and authenticity will need to sit at the very heart of the art world. That is exciting for Tagsmart as we can play our part in supporting that transformation.
Widewalls: What is currently in the pipeline for Tagsmart?
TT: We are always iterating our physical and digital technology. More recently and part of our plans for later in the year is we are developing a way how we can help connect artists with online retailers, enabling artists to choose from dozens of online retailers to list and sell their artworks while allowing online retailers to select between thousands of trusted tagged and certified works.
The interview was carried out and written by Widewalls magazine.