Art Authentication: Tradition versus Technology

January 2020

Human Expertise and Technology's interconnected role in the Future of Art Authentication

Gray Weather, Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1886-1888, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Giacomo, Researcher & Business Development Manager

Interested in authenticating your painting?

The convergence of advanced technologies has transformed the realm of art authentication, enhancing traditional methods with unparalleled precision and effectiveness. Digital imaging technology, renowned for its high-resolution capabilities, empowers experts to scrutinize artworks at a microscopic level, uncovering hidden layers or alterations indicative of forgery. Meanwhile, machine learning algorithms, trained on extensive databases of authenticated artworks, possess the potential to discern patterns and identify potential forgeries with remarkable accuracy.

The amalgamation of emerging technologies with traditional human expertise holds immense potential. By harnessing the strengths of both, art experts can elevate the authentication process to new heights. The synergy between the precision of digital imaging and machine learning and the nuanced insights provided by human expertise enables a more thorough and dependable authentication process, promising enhanced outcomes. From advancing efficiencies in scientific testing to the continued development of AI algorithms, the future of art authentication promises even greater accuracy, efficiency, and reliability. By embracing these technological advancements and combining them with the expertise of seasoned art professionals, the art world can navigate the complexities of authentication with confidence and integrity. This is important, not least in the sense that, as the art market continues to evolve in response to technological advancements, stakeholders must remain vigilant in adapting to new challenges and opportunities.

Digital Provenance Record Keeping

Digital provenance tracking, enabled by companies like Artclear, enable art professionals to trace an artwork's journey from its creation to its current state. By leveraging blockchain, a decentralised and tamper-proof technology, the authenticity of each transaction, change of ownership, or exhibition record can be securely stored and accessed. Additionally, machine learning algorithms can analyse large amounts of data related to an artwork's provenance, detecting patterns and anomalies that may indicate inconsistencies. These algorithms can contribute to the detection of forged provenance documents or alert experts to discrepancies that require further investigation.

X-Ray Radiography

This technology enables experts to penetrate beneath the surface of an artwork, revealing hidden layers, materials, and structures that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. X-rays can detect changes in density, materials, and alterations made to the original artwork. X-ray radiography is particularly effective in analysing paintings and sculptures. It can unveil concealed signatures, hidden sketches, and even overpainting. By examining an artwork's internal structure, experts can compare it with historical records and catalogued information to verify its authenticity and detect any signs of tampering or restoration.

Infrared Imaging

One of the most widely utilised emerging technologies in art authentication is infrared imaging. This non-invasive technique involves capturing the infrared spectrum of light to expose alterations, and underdrawings in artworks. Infrared reflectography and thermal imaging are two common methods employed in this process. This technology is particularly useful in identifying art forgeries where an artist's signature style or technique is copied, as well as in revealing any hidden alterations that may have been made to deceive collectors and experts.

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