Fakes and fraud in the art market might be a thing of the past, as recent technological advancements could give each work a unique tag.
Throughout history, there has always existed a black market for forged works of art, and it has been estimated that some 40 percent of works sold aren’t what they seem. Fortunately, The Global Center of Innovation at the University of Albany may have developed a microscopic tag that could make forgery virtually impossible. In a program launched in London on October 12, researchers have begun to tag original works of art with a synthetic DNA label that can be scanned and verified via a protected database. Sound expensive? In fact, the tag would cost around $150 for each work, an insignificant sum given the level of protection.
Lawrence Shindell, chairman of ARIS Title Insurance Corporation, points out, “There is no universal standard that governs how a work should be identified, no solution that can authenticate a previously unidentified work with any degree of certainty, and therefore no mechanism to prevent the reintroduction of faked and forged objects back onto the market. The i2M Standards represent an international, cross-industry solution designed to solve art’s great challenges caused by fakery and fraud.”
While the DNA tag and database aren’t 100 percent fail-proof, the project represents a major advance in the fight to keep the art market free of fraudulent works. Researchers and investors hope the tags become commonplace and part of a universal standard that — if achieved — will make forged works of art extremely rare, if not virtually nonexistent. Moreover, developers hope to extend the project beyond the art world and into various other industries.
To learn more, visit the University of Albany.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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