David Henty’s copyist paintings are becoming increasingly collectable, but as David well knows, once an artist gains recognition, he will inevitably attract copycats – those looking to cash in on his fame by producing forgeries of his work. So how can a buyer be sure that they’re acquiring a genuine David Henty original when they purchase a painting? The answer lies in a bespoke electronic tagging system that could change the way the art world guarantees provenance.
The hi-tech NTAGs are supplied by Agriyork400, a leading UK-based supplier of laboratory supplies and scientific equipment. Each painting is labelled with an RFID (radio frequency identification) tag, containing a memory chip that holds encrypted information about the painting. Buyers or dealers can read the tags using a smartphone app, which links to a central database collating information on the artworks and their whereabouts.
This electronic ‘signature’ guarantees the work’s authenticity, and the tags are completely secure and tamper-proof, meaning that they will destroy themselves if someone attempts to remove them.
This is the first time that such a system has been applied to authenticating artworks, and Duncan Carmichael, Sales Manager at Agriyork400, says that reactions to the technology within the art world have been unexpectedly timid. He explains that changing attitudes in the stubbornly old-fashioned field of art dealing, where a letter assuring provenance is still the norm, has been more difficult than the Agriyork400 team predicted, with the artists and art dealers that they approached seeming reluctant to try something new. “The more artists we approached who didn’t want to go forward, the more innovative David appears,” says Duncan. And, of course, he is well aware of the irony in the fact that David Henty has been the first to adopt the NTAG system: “He is on a mission to show he has a genuine fake, using the tag as a way of showing to anybody, the authorities included, that he’s not selling the real thing.”Duncan says that Agriyork400 plan to approach new graduates at art schools and universities, bringing the technology to the next generation of fine artists. But, for the moment at least, David Henty is leading the way in the use of the innovative technology, proving that he may be a master forger, but there’s no faking his work!