An international award scheme set up two years ago has honoured Cranfield University’s programme of research into art market fakes and forgeries.
Shortlisted with three other nominees for
the 2012 Annette Giacometti Prize, the Bonhams-sponsored project,
led by Professor Andrew Shortland, has developed an increasingly
sophisticated trace element analysis to identify small differences
in very rare elements within an object. From this, the university
can build up a database of objects allowing it to use comparisons
to identify fakes, most notably in the world of ceramics and
Launched in 2011, the Annette Giacometti
Prize is designed to recognise initiatives helping to raise
awareness about the counterfeiting of artworks.
At the awards ceremony at the Paris
UNESCO headquarters on April 26, the judges awarded the project a
grant of €10,000 to fund conferences on counterfeit art, held in
museums and aimed at the general public.
The main prize went to German investigative
journalists and authors Stefan Koldehoff and Tobias Timm for their
investigation into the Beltracchi-Jaegers fake paintings case, with
other nominees including Markus Eisenbeis, owner of Van Ham auction
house and president of the German auctioneers association BDK, and
his Database of Critical Works, which is used to
combat counterfeiting, and Thomas Seydoux of Christie's France for
his November 2011 conference Unbelievable but Fake - the Art of
Sebastian Kuhn, of Bonhams' British and
European porcelain and pottery department, initiated the
relationship with Cranfield in 2009, when he asked Professor
Shortland to research a piece of European porcelain and test it for
Within a year Cranfield were able to expand
their research into European porcelain by creating a PhD post for
Kelly Domoney and Bonhams looked to widen the project's remit to
cover Asian art with the support of deputy chairman Colin Sheaf and
a three-year funding deal.
Since then the university and auction house
have worked together to produce research papers and a lecture
programme in partnership with Harvard, Winterthur and the Chicago
Institute of Art.
Last year it meant that Bonhams were able to
publish Kelly Domoney's research on the subject in a Bonhams
catalogue for the first time, announcing the testing of the whole
Helmut Joseph collection, and announcing for the first time a clear
division between the 18th and 19th century Meissen snuffboxes.
Mr Sheaf toldATG: "This award has come at a
very early stage in our research programme which shows just how
valuable the results are likely to be for the whole industry in due
"We are very optimistic that this will bring
one element of art authentication into the 21st century."