Using a technological tool as a method can tackle problems related to forging and timing of authentication of artworks.

The marketing of artworks gave rise to an increasing demand of artworks, and in order to keep up with it, also a flourishing forging market. It is therefore increasingly necessary, not only to authenticate the work itself, but to use technological tools and practices that prevent them from being reproduced, such as the introduction of IT code systems and a traceability of the works themselves.

In the movie The best offer by Tornatore, Virgil Oldman, director of an auction house, verifies the authenticity of some paintings with a monocle, searching for the artist’s signature. Is this enough to establish the authenticity of an artwork?

Under article 64 of the Italian Code for Cultural Heritage, anyone who sells artworks publicly has the duty of submitting documents certifying the authenticity of the artwork in question to the buyer. In reality, the situation is more complex because of the lack of an official register of art experts in Italy confirming their authority and the lack of widespread and largely shared tools to reduce the documents’ drafting time and stop them from being forged.

The current computerisation of systems has however revolutionised the approach to art thanks to the introduction of digital cataloguing practices and issuing of authentication certificates.

Before the advent of technology, and the introduction of technological tools allowing to support a larger amount of data and information and make it accessible to users in a safe way, museum catalogues, public and private collections consisted of paper cards with the results of scientific analysis and measuring of the artwork, which were easy to clone.  Similarly, when purchasing an artwork, a paper authentication certificate is issued which comprises of a black and white picture depicting the artwork on one side and the certification validating its authenticity signed by the expert on the other side. This can also be reproduced.

Innovative digital systems have therefore been introduced not only to reduce the time required to issue a paper appraisal (a detailed report to assess the authorship and historic-artistic context of the artwork), the expert’s valuation (a document containing the evaluation plus the commercial value of the artwork) and the certificate of authenticity. They can also erase the risk of certificates being cloned.

One of these systems has been developed by MyTemplArt®, a certified cloud-based platform. Once users are registered, it allows them to always carry the information about the artwork, to keep track of the process of issuing the certificate of authenticity through their own account and sharing information according to privacy and security principles. The issue of protecting a certificate of authenticity is dealt with thanks to a QR-Code system that allows the user to trace it and stops it from being forged because the code is unique, not clonable and impossible to remove once applied to a paper document.

Technology has also given rise to new art forms such as video, music audio and digital photography, which bring with them a higher chance of infringing copyrights and forging documents. In this case, as the artwork put on the Internet can be shared faster, there is a technology based on time stamping to guarantee its authorship. There are platforms that through a blockchain database, generate an incorruptible certificate of authenticity featuring the artist’s signature and time stamping so that they cannot be forged in any way.

A spread of these new digital tools could help solve the problem of forged certificates, if shared, understood and used on a large scale, not just by public archives and galleries but also by private collectors that wish to protect the artistic heritage that comes into their possession.

This post is also available in: Italian