Fighting fake art in Asia: Pioneering technology from Cranfield University and Bonhams

Posted July 1st, 2011 under Forgery, Technology

“In a statement released in May 2011, Cranfield University and Bonhams, one of the world’s oldest and largest art auctioneers, publicised the establishment of a collaborative forensic science research project that represents significant advances in the authentication of art objects,” writes Art Radar.

From Cranfield’s announcement: “This will be particularly useful in the field of Chinese art which has become one of the hottest sectors of the global art market in recent years, and nowhere more so than in the demand for fine antique porcelain. While prices for the finest Imperial porcelain have soared, so have the ambitions of highly accomplished fakers, seeking to infiltrate spectacular new fakes into a market feverish for top quality material. Technology exists to distinguish scientifically the genuine treasures from the fakes, but the technology normally used is over forty years old, invasive, and no longer entirely trustworthy.

Forensic science often manages to identify small differences in very rare elements in an object. These ‘trace elements’ can often identify an object’s place, and sometimes date, of origin if a good database already exists for similar objects. ‘Trace element analysis’ is regularly used in many kinds of detective work, from establishing the original source of premium organic foods, to researching ‘scene of crime’ evidence.

It has never been practical in the past to use it systematically in the art market, because obtaining samples has often been unacceptably destructive, and databases are neither detailed nor specific enough. The Cranfield/Bonhams project aims to change that.”

Art Radar Asia: “The proliferation of counterfeit objects has long been a problem in China. In October 2010, Global Times reporter Fu Wen wrote that the credibility of the domestic auction industry has suffered because of scandals involving fake auctions or auctions of fake objects at high prices. Compounding the issue is the fact that the current regulatory framework does not give buyers sufficient protection. In line with the current Auction Law, if the auctioneer and the client assert that they cannot guarantee the authenticity of an object before it goes under the hammer, neither party can be held responsible for any problems that crop up after the sale is concluded.”

Read more at Art Radar Asia

More at also.

Masterminds – The Forger’s Art

By the time he was caught in 1997, John Drewe had pulled off the biggest art fraud in U.K. history. Drewe met a struggling art teacher with a flare for reproductions and conned him into painting hundreds of fakes. Later, Drewe posed as a wealthy patron of the arts to gain access to museum archives and plant false records that supported the authenticity of his faux masterpieces.

Part 2

Part 3