Legal Technology

Synthetic DNA could help foil problem of forged art, experts say

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A new system is being developed that could help curtail high-priced sales of art forgeries, experts say.

Along with the real artist’s signature, a unique pattern of synthetic DNA would be embedded in the artwork when it is created, the New York Times (reg. req.) explains. The bioengineered “tag” could also help reduce traffic in stolen art, since pieces could be checked for DNA signatures before they are sold.

Under development by the Global Center for Innovation at the State University of New York at Albany, the fledgling system is being helped along by $2 million in ARIS Title Insurance Corporation funds. (The title company focuses on artworks.) Once available, each DNA signature tag is expected to cost around $150.

Currently, experts can differ on whether a piece claimed to have been created by a particular artist is a fake. Meanwhile, because litigation is not uncommon, many experts are reluctant to give opinions, the Times article notes.

“We wanted a marker that was very hard to locate and not prone to environmental issues or tampering,” says Robert Jones, who is president of SUNY Albany.

In addition to being embedded in the piece and hence very difficult to remove, a unique synthetic DNA tag is very hard to re-create, the Times says. Using an artist’s own DNA on multiple pieces, by contrast, would open up the possibility of privacy violations and somehow obtaining the artist’s actual DNA for improper use in “authenticating” works.

See also: “Same Fake Art Pops Up Again and Again, In ‘Whac-a-Mole’ Experience for Experts Asked to Authenticate” “‘Rothko’ painting bought for $7.2M was a fake painted in a garage, purchaser says in lawsuit”

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