Investing in art can be a financially and aesthetically rewarding endeavour, but it is certainly not without its risks. On the one hand, paintings bring a high return on investment and the sector is booming. On the other hand, however, even experienced collectors and investors can be duped by counterfeiters. According to estimates, 50 percent of all artworks in circulation are either wrongly attributed to artists or are classified as forgeries.
The most famous example is Salvator Mundi: a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. In 2017, it sold for 470 million US dollars at British auction house Christie’s. This price tag made it the world's most expensive painting. However, the authenticity of this alleged work of da Vinci's is the subject of much debate. Some experts insist it is the most expensive fake of all time. This case highlights the fact that the art market is dependent on reliable expertise. Analysis of a painting rarely follows clear-cut rules of science. The risk of incorrect interpretation needs to be factored into any investment decision, in the same way as the costs of transporting and insuring the artwork are taken into account. A falsely claimed attribution can cost collectors and investors millions and can be highly damaging to a person's reputation and credibility. Adding to the costs are that art valuation technologies currently available on the market are complex, expensive and often unsuitable for day-to-day use by untrained operators.
The Swiss start-up MATIS, which stands for Monitoring Art with Technology, Innovation and Science, has developed an innovative, patentable solution to this very problem. By applying technology and extensive experience in the fields of image processing and AI in combination with affiliated company CSEM's special algorithms to detect and represent pigments and visualise drawings, the Neuchâtel-based project has created a cutting-edge optical and AI solution. This affordable, scientific method supports experts in their daily dealings with artworks.