It is interesting to see the New York Times pick up this story about SUNY Albany creating synthetic DNA to mark paintings for future authentication. The issue isn’t whether SUNY has developed a superior technology because technology is not really the barrier to authentication in the art market.
No matter what technology is applied, it will not add value until it is pervasive. There’s the hurdle. The Times’s story gets play because Eric Fischl has lent his fame to the effort. But unless Fischl creates a foundation that is willing to spend the time and money to mark every work the artist has created and sold with that synthetic DNA, the technology will remain inert.
Colette Loll of Art Fraud Insights is quoted in the piece saying, “There is a deep freeze in authentications.” For SUNY Albany’s DNA to thaw that freeze will require a massive effort to retroactively authenticate and mark all the world’s valuable art.
The method is being developed at the Global Center for Innovation at the State University of New York at Albany. The school said it had received $2 million in funding from the ARIS Title Insurance Corporation, which specializes in art.
Two years ago, the center, known for its work in bioengineering, encryption and nanotechnology, set about developing a way to infuse paintings, sculptures and other artworks with complex molecules of DNA created in the lab.
“We wanted a marker that was very hard to locate and not prone to environmental issues or tampering,” Robert J. Jones, president of SUNY Albany, said. Equally important, he added, was that artists would embrace the approach.