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Monday, May 20, 2002

DNA-marked paintings
Matthew Brace

AUSTRALIAN painter Pro Hart has become the first artist to mark his work with his DNA. Other artists are expected to follow his lead, to authenticate their works beyond doubt. Hart, a 73-year-old former silver miner who lives and paints in the outback town of Broken Hill, is determined to stem the flood of fakes on the market. His paintings sell for five-figure sums and forgers have targeted him. During a trip to Sydney, he demonstrated the DNA marker technique by taking a swab from inside his cheek. "I have had to do this because of the copying,’ he said.

‘There must be hundreds out there. I’ve done a lot of painting in Britain so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is copying them over there, too. "Owners of up to 50 of Hart’s works attended a three-day ‘DNA clinic’ at the gallery last week. For $ 70 each, their paintings were authenticated and DNA-encrypted. This involves pulling apart DNA strands and finding segments unique to the donor. These are blended with paint and applied in an invisible film at a point on the canvas known only to the person applying it. The painting looks no different but is indelibly marked.