Scientists and art scholars propose standards for trade in art and antiques


Jennifer Mass, President of Scientific Analysis of Fine Art (SAFA), speaking at The Application of Forensic Science and Technology in the Art Trade event.

The event, The Application of Forensic Science and Technology in the Art Business, was organized by the Art Loss Register and more than 90 delegates discussed the pros and cons on a range of related topics.

The November 14 event at The Apothecaries’ Hall in London was chaired by Julian Radcliffe, Chairman of the Art Loss Register.


The apothecaries' room

The Application of Forensic Science and Technology in the Art Business event was held in the Apothecary Hall.

He offered a way forward for members of the scientific and forensic communities to work with the art and antiquities trade to improve standards for condition reporting and verification of works of art and items.

Questions have been raised regarding the number of poorly formed reports for artwork in the market.

Speaker Jennifer Mass, president of Scientific Analysis of Fine Art (SAFA) and vetter at TEFAF New York, warned of the pitfalls of such unsuitable reporting and recommended that one solution is for clients to “build on a team of experts who have the appropriate qualifications in the relevant fields…accreditation helps…”

She added: “We need to educate the public about what good science looks like…I would vote for an accreditation system.


Julien Radcliffe

Art Loss Register President Julian Radcliffe chaired The Application of Forensic Science and Technology in the Art Trade event.

Speaking of the concern that some item condition reports are not done correctly or completely and that some previous reports are not available to subsequent purchasers of the artwork, Radcliffe said: “The way next is to move from the caveat emptor scenario to the assurance way of working with full disclosure.

“If we move on to this, we will have a much healthier art business. Dealers and auction houses should reveal everything they know.

“It’s one of the many reasons why some people don’t buy or collect. They don’t collect because they don’t trust the art trade.

Professor Andrew Shortland, Director of the Cranfield Forensic Institute, has proposed the creation of a professional body of analysts and recommended ways to build it.

On the topic of verifying paintings and how fakes can be determined from the real thing, a number of tech companies spoke about the latest advances in artificial intelligence and computer techniques, including Carina Popovici , CEO and co-founder of Art Recognition.


Bendor Grosvenor

Art dealer, historian and presenter Bendor Grosvenor speaking at the Application of Forensic Science and Technology in the Art Trade event.

However, art dealer, historian and presenter Bendor Grosvenor expressed his view that everyone, from the expert, to the connoisseur, to the AI ​​tool can, and does, make mistakes and that verifying to whom a work of art is attributed is never easy.

He said: “There are prejudices everywhere we look. I don’t think we should rely on anything because we all have weaknesses in the system. Can authenticity be established? Not always, and not all the time. Sometimes we have to accept that “probably by Leonardo” (referring to the infamous Salvator Mundi) is the best we can do. »

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