The University of Western Australia today revealed the world's first chemically protected Indigenous artwork and the latest development in the battle against art fraud.
Indigenous art fraud impacts on artists, Aboriginal communities, galleries, art dealers, collectors and their confidence in the authenticity of Australian Aboriginal art.
Western Australia alone exports some $500 million dollars worth of Indigenous art per year.
The technology, developed by UWA PhD student Rachel Green, can ‘encode' particular artists' work with a chemical ‘cocktail' that cannot be entirely removed or seen with the naked eye.
A carefully prepared mix of elements is added to the media used by the artist and can even be incorporated into the canvas or frame.
The combination of elements and quantities used in the cocktail creates a ‘fingerprint' that can specifically relate to a particular artist or period of time when it was created.
The technique stems from the work of Professor John Watling, of UWA's Centre for Forensic Science, who first developed gold fingerprinting which uses a laser to determine the origins of gold by its trace elements.
Determining the origins of works of art using laser ablation has never been done before, making this research the first of its kind in the world.
Although connected primarily to Australian works of art, this technique may be applied to all types of artworks internationally.
The artwork, to be launched this evening by new WA Arts Minister John Day, is Wunubi Spring, by renowned artist Freddie Timms.
Rachel Green (UWA PhD student) (+61 4) 13 812 915
Stephanie Stonier, CEO Jirrawun Arts (Freddie Timms) (+61 4) 38 940 370
Prof John Watling (UWA Centre for Forensic Science) (+61 4) 17 940 254
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 5563 / (+61 4) 32 637 716