Chapter 39. The Case of Nano-D Technology
Several years ago, Paul Biro, son of Canadian-Hungarian painter and art sleuth extraordinaire Geza Biro, made an important statement about his method of conducting research on paintings of questionable authenticity. He said that he approaches the picture as if he were a detective at a crime scene seeking to link the material evidence to the perpetrator
in this case via a fingerprint. When a fingerprint located within the paint or varnish on a painting can be matched with the artists known fingerprint, the identity of the paintings creator can be verified.
Verifying the authenticity of an art object, whether its a painting, artists print, sculpture, piece of jewellery or even a coin, is a serious concern in the art market. These days, art verification is no longer only a matter of professional judgement and opinion: its a matter of science. Thanks to the efforts of the team at Chali-Rosso Art Gallery in Vancouver, a new diagnostic tool has been added to the art investigators tool kit in the form of the nano-D system. The nano-D system was developed by the gallerys owner and director, Susanna Strem, and her team. Strem was addressing authenticity concerns held by the industry as a whole, as well as by her own gallerys clients. In her Granville Row gallery, she presents limited edition original prints by modern masters such as Picasso, Dali, Miró and Chagall. Using nano-D fingerprint technology, Strem is able to offer documented, indisputable proof of authenticity. The resulting documents become key and permanent components of the artworks provenance and authenticity packages and can prove invaluable for both insurance and resale purposes.
This non-invasive tool is based on reverse engineering. A three-dimensional digital rendering is made of the surface of the art object at a nano scale. The digital rendering is similar to taking a fingerprint, in that a uniquely identifiable image of a specific section of the artwork is captured. As Strem explains, by selecting several specific sections of the artwork to sample, enough data can be collected to complete and preserve the nano-D record. Its not necessary to render an image of the entire surface. The digital information is then stored on a DVD, with one copy provided to the client and another held in a secure, off-site location.
The nano-D system is portable and is operated by a highly trained professional. Its cost is surprisingly affordable, determined largely by where the collection to be documented is located and the size and number of the pieces in it. The DVD becomes an integral part of the authenticity package and should accompany the sale if an artwork changes hands. Knowing that the authenticity can be verified offers people a powerful incentive to purchase artwork.
It seems to me that auction houses, which are in the business of selling only authentic works, should consider requiring that each work offered at auction be subject to the scrutiny that nano-D technology provides, because it offers the purchaser a validation of the works authenticity. Doing this would further enhance the credibility of an auction house important in a competitive market culture. And bidders would, Im sure, like to know that any artworks they were interested in has been verified as authentic by nano-D technology. And so it goes
Next: The Case of the Developing Dali