A pioneering hallmark for bronze sculpture, ‘Bronzechain’, was launched last year by DACS, in partnership with Verisart, one of the blockchain certification platforms for the arts. The first bronze works to be hallmarked last year are by sculptor Maurice Blik, who also held a solo exhibition at Bowman Sculpture in London in April – May 2018.

Bronzes could be considered an ideal use-case for the technology, as the link between a digital record and a physical asset can be immediately added by the bronze foundry into the mould of the bronze. The physical hallmark will be with the bronze in perpetuity, and the digital record will be saved on the blockchain in perpetuity.

Whilst gold and silver hallmarks have been utilised for hundreds of years (the former of which was first proposed in the 1300s), no such example exists for bronze, and Bronzechain is therefore an unprecedented proof of concept that forges a radical convergence of old and new technologies.

To address the increasing number of bronze sculpture forgeries and fakes in circulation, which damages collectors’ confidence and the reputation and skill of the trade, Maurice Blik proposed a bronze hallmark to DACS, seeking their support. Set up by artists, for artists, and as a leading not-for-profit organisation with 30 years’ experience in protecting artists’ rights and creating innovative services that enhance artists’ ability to sustain their practices, DACS was enthusiastic to collaborate on it.

There is a business model to sustain this system. The Bronzechain stamp will be licensed by DACS to approved bronze art foundries, in a similar way to the image licenses that the agency manages every single day.

Each bronze produced will be stamped with the Bronzechain hallmark in the wax before casting. A digital certificate of authenticity are then recorded by the DACS copyright licensing service and certified on the Verisart protocol.

By storing and securing data using cryptography, the blockchain certificate reinforces the physical hallmark by recording technical data specific to each artwork including dimensions, location of hallmark and edition number. As a result, the handling of bronzes will be significantly more secure and transparent.

Maurice Blik, British sculptor and Bronzechain advocate, said: “With this hallmark, people can be assured that they are getting genuine bronze and are not fooled into buying sculpture described as ‘resin bronze’, ‘cold cast bronze’ or ‘bonded bronze’, believing it to be bronze which it’s not, it’s plastic.”

Mark Waugh, Business Development Director at DACS, said: “We are proud to support the innovative ideas of artists who help us find real solutions that enhance and protect the financial landscape for artists. Bronzechain is a nuanced and intuitive solution that elegantly combines blockchain technology with art world sensibilities to build confidence in the art market through provenance data.”

Robert Norton, Founder and CEO at Verisart, said: “We’re delighted to partner with DACS to bring to market a new standard for the certification of bronze sculptures to protect artists’ rights and reduce the scope for fraudulent activity and forgery.”

That's not where it ends. Bronzechain can have further applications by ensuring bronze art can be identified accurately, and thus handled appropriately with confidence on the secondary market by art market professionals. One could transfer the ownership of the certificate to new owners, and follow the value train.

This has major benefits for the Artist’s Resale Right (ARR), which enables visual artists and estates within copyright to receive royalties from the resale of their work by galleries, auction houses and dealers.

One could also imagine museum casts and copies, a great revenue-generator for institutions, being clearly labelled in an immutable digital record and hallmark. Meaning that future owners will be able to understand if the bronze was cast in the artist's lifetime or afterwards, and whether it is an authentic/authorised post-mortem cast.

Bronzechain is a promising new example of how the old & new technologies in the art world can collaborate.

We're excited to continue raising awareness of these kinds of initiatives with the public.

cover image Maurice Blik Studio © Photo Bowman Sculpture, 2018.