Tagsmart applies art authentication technology to limited-edition books

Tagsmart applies art authentication technology to limited-edition books

Leading the market in next-gen art authentication, this British tech company is now applying its 'DNA tags' to high-end books.


The pitch

Tagsmart is the go-to provider of authentication services for the art industry - and it has just started applying its technology to books. Officially launched in April 2016, the British-based tech company provides provenance and certification services for artists, galleries and collectors, using physical 'DNA tags' to identify artworks via an online service. Artists can use the service to verify their work and issue Certificates of Authenticity. It is the only business to be highlighted in the 2017 Deloitte Art and Finance Report as offering this service.

Tagsmart being applied to the book Ricochet: David Bowie 1983 by Denis O’Regan

The team

Led by executive chairman/founder/investor lead Tom Toumazis MBE, Tagsmart was set up by globally renowned frame-maker and fabricator Mark Darbyshire and product designer Steve Cooke in 2014.

The wider team also includes experts from art and tech backgrounds including Nicolas Gitton, former UK m.d. of  Paddle8,  Robert Suss, renowned art collector and trustee of the Royal Academy of Arts, Aino-Leena Grapin, former EMEA m.d. at Paddle8 and senior roles at Christie’s, Ian Griffin, former founder and executive chairman of B2B hotel marketplace online platform eviivo and Simon Walsh (former c.o.o. of eviivo).

What's the gap in the market?

Digital technology, alongside increasingly sophisticated intellectual property pirates and forgers, pose an increasing challenge in all sectors for greater accountability and authenticity.

"We've seen this in the food industry, in motoring and technology," Toumazis reports. "The art industry is no different and is susceptible to fakes and forgeries as well as misrepresentation. Coupled with an online retail sector that is showing the fastest growth in art, there became a greater pull from collectors and artists to create a technology that allowed for greater trust and transparency."

Success so far?

Tagsmart now has over 20,000 artwork records on its platform and has tagged or certificated over 8,000 works of art. Last October the company made its first move into tagging sculpture, working with Idris Khan for his exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery. And the company recently developed a new DNA stamp technology specifically for high-end limited-edition books.

Recently partnering with Moonlight Books, Tagsmart authenticated Ricochet: David Bowie 1983 by Denis O’Regan. The book, which includes a fine art collection of rare photographs of David Bowie's tour, used a specially developed form of Tagsmart’s new DNA stamp. 

Tagsmart works with a range of partners from internationally renowned artists such as Chris Levine, Gary Hume, Idris Khan and Marc Quinn, through to artist estates (such as, for the recent book, the David Bowie estate). Tagsmart also works with a number of UK high street galleries, including The Mall Galleries and Philip Mould and Co. Philip Mould CBE, of BBC's Fake or Fortune, is also an advisor to the Company.

Biggest challenges?

"The same as any startup," Toumazis says. "Sharing the vision and every day getting more people to see the world in a different way, managing costs and focussing on the quality of the service we offer. Oh - and never forgetting hiring curious people who love what they do and can cope with a startup environment." 

Ultimate ambition?

The Tagsmart team aim to be the 'intel inside', the 'kite mark' or the 'DVLA' of the art and art publishing worlds.

Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?

"Design your service with your customers, not for them. Let a select few be part of the product development process. It slows you down at the beginning but is hugely helpful when you launch.  Your customers will feel more engaged and connected and there is greater chance of wider product acceptance."