In a major step to end counterfeit art, Artentika (Pty) Ltd, a South African start-up controlled by Swiss interests, announces that it has just filed for patents on two ground-breaking technologies developed to determine whether an objet d’art is authentic.
According to Artentika’s CEO, Albertus Geldenhuys: “Our inventions use either quantum technology or DNA, combined with other techniques, to produce a composite rendering of the work. The artist’s interaction with his or her tools and materials yields a distinctive ‘fingerprint’; when the molecular composition of the materials is added, one obtains a unique, multi-factor ‘artomatrix™’ that is impossible to replicate.”
Geldenhuys and his team have decades of experience of fingerprint biometrics in large forensic systems and access control installations, having deployed them both in third-world and high-tech environments. “Thanks to our unique ability to extract useful data from virtually undetectable fingerprints, FIFA – via an associate company – chose us to install a fingerprint access control system at its Zurich head office,” Geldenhuys said. Equally drawn to quantum technology, Geldenhuys co-invented and patented several technologies in object and human authentication. “Four years ago, however, it was automated fingerprint identification that prompted us to research an Automated Art Authentication System (AAAS)™,” he explains.
Artentika makes use of portable devices to allow the collection of data in the field. Geldenhuys stresses that “it is onerous and costly to transfer a painting from a residence, office or bonded store to a laboratory, and there is always the risk of damage, theft or substitution. If we choose the quantum route, we use a multi-functional device the size of a suitcase. A scan takes less than four minutes. Subsequently, we create a reference database by scanning several works by the same artist, and compare the work under investigation to this database. We issue our report within 24 hours. If it is necessary to use DNA, for example when no additional works exist or if they are inaccessible, the process is more time-consuming and could require days or even months.”
Artentika’s Swiss Art Authentication Service will be available this fall. Apart from collectors, the company expects its clients to be museums, auction houses, financial institutions, insurance companies, and government agencies. “We are certainly looking forward to solving some of the world’s most tantalising art mysteries,” Geldenhuys concludes.