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Partnership seeks to combat counterfeit Native art

Many forms of Native American art, such as ceramics, would be protected from counterfeiting through a new partnership. (Photo via SWAIA Facebook)

A new partnership has been formed to fight against fraud in the Native American art market.

Imprint, a blockchain-based art security registry, and the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) unveiled a plan to supply 800 Native American artists with permanently certified digital titles for their artwork.

An announcement was made during the 100th-annual Santa Fe Indian Market held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, from Aug. 17 to Aug. 21.

Imprint provides artists and galleries with permanent digital titles that allow artwork to be officially registered, creating a “digital certificate of authenticity” that is stored on a secure blockchain database. Blockchain is a decentralized public digital ledger that is used to record transactions.

According to a release by Imprint, when an art piece is sold, the Imprint title and certificate are transferred to the buyer with transaction information – such as date, location, and valuation – which is created and stored instantaneously, “creating a secure and infinite provenance that can be traced back to the creation of the piece and its initial sale.”

“We are honored to work with SWAIA to provide a next-generation solution to tackle an age-old issue of fraud and exploitation committed against Native American culture,” Ruth-Ann Thorn, cofounder of Imprint, said in a statement.

Thorn is the founder and CEO of Exclusive Collections Galleries, a trio of fine art galleries that showcases Native American artists. She is a member of the Rincon Band of Luiseño/Payómkawichum Indians of Southern California, where she serves as chair of the Rincon economic development board.

“By giving artists and their representatives a simple, easy-to-use digital tool, we hope to eliminate counterfeit work purporting to be from Native American artists, which will make their authentic work that much more valuable,” Thorn said.

The release said about $1 billion in Native American art is sold each year and an estimated 80% of it comes from the sale of counterfeit goods – paintings, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics and textiles.

The nonprofit SWAIA supports Native American artists and produces and promotes the Santa Fe Indian Market – one of the largest Indian art events in the world. More is at swaia.org. Imprint, founded in 2021, bills itself as the first “secure global art registry to prevent art fraud.” More is at imprintregistry.com.

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